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Dark-haired,, dynamic Ann Landers 
loves people and proves it in her 
unceasing efforts to help them solve 
problems. Her ready wit and wise 
understanding of everyday prob 
lems, her warmth and sincerity have 
made her America's #1 human re 
lations columnist. 

Readers from every walk of life call 
on her for advice about every phase 
of living, and every letter she re 
ceives gets an answer. She is asked 
how to handle mooching relatives, 
lecherous bosses, free-loading fian 
ces, noisy neighbors, jealous hus 
bands,, catty girl friends and patho 
logical liars . . . to list a few. And, 
the questions come from everybody 
harassed housewives to bewildered 
bridegrooms, and truck drivers to 
schoolteachers. She never hesitates 
to call on anybody anywhere to help 
her provide a better ansiver to a 
baffling question. Her quest sends 
her searching the fields of medicine, 
psychiatry, law, religion^ business,, 
politics and education. 

JNlOW, after her years as a columnist 
answering readers everywhere, here is 
the sum and substance of all Ann 
Landers* experience in a fresh new ap 
proach to life's oldest bugabootrouble. 

(Continued on back flap) 



BOOK CLUB 
EDITION 



Landers, Ann 
Since you ask me 



kansas city 



public library 



city, 



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on presentation of library card. 
Please report lost cards and 

change of residence promptly. 
Card holders are responsible for 

all books, records, films, pictures 
or other library materials 
checked out on their cards, 



Since 



you 



isk 



me 



INCE 





Y 

ASK 



E 



By Ann Landers 




PRENTICE-HALL, INC. ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, NJ. 



For Margo 



1961 by Prentice-Hall, Inc. All rights reserved, including the 
right to reproduce this book, or any portions thereof, in any form, 
except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. Printed in 
the United States of America. 



Contents 



About Ann Landers ix 

1. May I tell you about my operation? 1 

2. Whistles and thistles 10 

3. How to pick a winner 21 

4. How important is sex in marriage? 38 

5. How to stay married 55 

6. Must we outlaw the in-law? 69 

7. Marriage is not for everyone 80 

8. A life in your hands 94 

9. Father or cash register? 106 

10. The war between the siblings 116 

11. Double trouble 127 

12. How well do you know your teen-ager? 139 

1 3. Teen-agers and sex 153 

14. The battle of the bottle 166 

15. Be bigger than what happens to you 178 

16. Age it's only a number, Baby! 192 

17. Are you for real? 201 

v 



Acknowledgments 



No writer, living or dead, ever made more unreasonable de 
mands on a long list of busy people in an effort to turn out as 
good a book as the writer could possibly produce. 

''Thank you" is a phrase so lame and so inadequate that it 
barely scratches the surface of my feelings. I am at a loss to 
express my gratitude to the many who gave so much of their 
time, energy, and wisdom. 

My warm and special thanks to Marshall Field, Jr., President 
and Publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago 
Daily News for his generous support and for the freedom he 
has allowed me with my column. 

And my gratitude to the wonderful people in every depart 
ment of the Sun-Times who have made me feel that I am a 
member of this remarkable newspaper family. 

To Lany Fanning, Executive Editor of the Chicago Sun- 
Times, a set of angel wings (tailored by Brooks Brothers) for 
editing this book. The pressures of guiding the editorial destinies 
of a metropolitan daily are demanding and punishing. In the 
face of a back-breaking schedule, Larry accepted the responsi 
bility of editing these seventy-thousand words. What appears 
between these covers bears the mark of his skill and artistry. 

To Wilbur C. Munnecke, a very special halo for his very- 
special guidance. Will's insight and his mature approach to 
living have a stabilizing effect on those who are fortunate 
enough to be counted as his friends. Every chapter is more than 
a little bit better because Will has read it and offered his wise 
counsel. 

A gold-plated harp to John G. Trezevant, Sunday Editor of 
the Chicago Sun-Times, for his perceptive evaluation and his 
keen sense of editorial balance which served as radar to keep 
me on the beam, 

vii 



Vlll ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

To Dr. Robert Stolar, Clinical Associate Professor of Medi 
cine (Dermatology), Georgetown University, Washington D,C., 
a star-studded crown for his saintly patience. Dr. Stolar listened 
to this book, one chapter at a time as it was written, on the 
long-distance telephone. He gave me a sense of security and the 
assurance that Since You Ask Me contains advice which is 
scientifically sound. 

Hugs and kisses to my principal assistants, Lilyan Simmons 
and Jane Janson. They bore up stoically under the staggering 
weight of additional work which I heaped on them while this 
book was being written. 

My thanks to Peggy Constantine who waded through im 
possible typing (mine) and prepared the finished manuscript 
for the publisher. 

To Jules, my heart, whose love and understanding sustains 
not only Ann Landers but Eppie Lederer. He has made all the 
good things in my double life possible. 

To Relman (Pat) Morin of the Associated Press, a plati 
num-plated sceptre for persuading me that the time had come 
to write this book and for exacting from me a promise that I 
would do it. 

To Bob Cooper, Tommy Thompson, Lib Carr, and Dorothy 
Portugais of the Chicago Sun-Times-Daily News Syndicate, an 
affectionate encomium for their unceasing efforts to make the 
Ann Landers column available to millions of readers all over 
the world. 

Special cheers to the fine publishing team at Prentice-Hall, 
who hacked through a jungle of manuscript which benefited 
immeasurably from their incisive penciling. 

And finally, my warm thanks to -the 450 newspapers which 
publish the Ann Landers column, for their confidence and their 
faith. These 450 newspapers give me 20 million pairs of eyes 
every day. Your Problem Girl promises to look out for our 
readers with loving care always. 



Ann Landers 



About Ann Landers 



Courage and fortitude are words seldom used and virtues 
rarely practiced in a world of anxieties, indifferences, and false 
securities. And yet- 
Since You Ask Me could well have been called The Courage 
of Ann Landers. Because Ann Landers has courage, and at a 
time when courage is a vital although virtually forgotten word. 
She has the courage to take a clear, strong stand on and for 
her beliefs. 

And Ann Landers has fortitude, which is the counterpart of 
courage. She is willing to accept and is ready to bear the con 
sequences of her courage and the consequences of her beliefs. 
Her courage has supported and comforted thousands of 
people who are baffled and dismayed by the problems they face. 
Ann Landers is Esther Pauline Lederer or "Eppie" or "Led" 
or "Mother" to her husband Jules and to her daughter Margo. 
Jules Lederer is a successful and respected businessman who 
believes his wife and his daughter are his true fortunes. Margo 
has just completed her junior year at Brandeis University and 
shows every promise of fulfilling all of the hopes of her parents. 
Eppie's demands on her associates are great, but her demands 
on herself are outrageous. Each day she pours quantities of 
compassionate energy into her letters and her column. From 

ix 



X ABOUT ANN LANDERS 

the first column she ever wrote six years ago to the one in her 
typewriter as you are reading this paragraph, Eppie has insisted 
that each letter which calls for an answer deserves, and there 
fore receives, the best answer she can devise. 

In addition to her courage, fortitude, ability and insight, 
there are at least two unique distinctions Eppie brings to her 
work, to her column and to her book. 

First, she never hesitates to call upon any individual any 
where who might help her provide a better answer to the 
questions she is asked. 

Second, and of greatest importance, each answer is spe 
cifically designed to help the individual who asks the question. 
If the answer helps another or amuses another, it does so as a 
by-product. Her sole objective is to help the person who asks 
the question. 

"Since You Ask Me" is not only by Ann Landers, it is Ann 
Landers herself, in fact, and in every sense. And as Ann Landers, 
it is Esther Pauline Lederer. And as Esther Pauline Lederer, it 
is Eppie. For Eppie wrote every word of it and Eppie believes 
every word of it. It is a good book because each of us will see 
himself reflected in some part of it; because some of us will see 
ourselves reflected in a considerable part of it; and, further, be 
cause all of us will see examples of others who have done more 
or who have endured more than we can conceive possible. 

That the Ann Landers column has been a phenomenal news 
paper success is beyond doubt. But the true measure of Eppie 
is that she has grown along with her column. In helping 
countless readers, she has developed her own knowledge and 
understanding of the behavior and motivations of all of us, 
whoever we are and wherever we may be. 

For these and for a multitude of other reasons, Eppie has the 
deep affection and great respect of each of her associates. 



Wilbur C. Munnecke 

Vice President and General Manager, the 

Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News 



i 

ONE 



May I tell you about my operation? 



"Man that is born of woman is of few days 
and full of trouble/' Job 14:1 



I HIS BOOK is about trouble that uninvited guest who 
visits us all. Trouble is the common denominator of 
living. It is the great equalizer. 

Trouble is no respecter of age, financial standing, social 
position or academic status. Trouble comes to people in 
high and low places alike. It is not a sign of stupidity, weak 
ness, or bad luck. It is evidence that we are card-carrying 
members of the human race. As someone once put it, "only 
the living have problems/' 

This book is also about how to prevent trouble and 
what to do about it when you can't prevent it. 

Since Fve been writing the Ann Landers column, Fve 



2 MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? 

learned a great deal about people and trouble. Among 
other things, I now know that millions of Americans earn 
an academy award every day of their lives for their acting 
ability. I've received thousands of letters from people who 
struggle heroically to present a cheerful face to the world. 
They give no hint of the civil war that rages within. How 
telling are the words of Lin Yutang, "Americans must be 
a very unhappy people. They laugh so much." 

In the past six years more than half a million people 
have written to me about their troubles. The people who 
write range from six years of age to ninety-six. They live on 
suburban estates and they live in city slums. Some of my 
correspondents are members of the double-domed, egg 
head set and others are poorly educated, semi-literates 
whose labored efforts to express themselves are touchingly 
impressive. Many letters are funny; many are written in 
ink diluted with tears. 

Tve received letters from bank presidents, truck drivers, 
doctors, waitresses, coal miners, school teachers, factory 
workers, lawyers, artists, nuclear scientists, prostitutes, teen 
agers and clergymen. 

Their questions involve every phase of daily living. Fve 
been asked by a disillusioned groom what to do about a 
young bride who boiled the envelope of grated cheese, in 
stead of the macaroni. 

A bewildered mother asked how to deal with her enter 
prising ten-year-old son who took a fistful of his father's 
two-dollar neckties to school and sold them for a dime 
apiece. 

A mother of five young children asked: 

"What can I do with a husband who consults his horo 
scope every morning? If the prediction for the day isn't 
good, he stays home from work." 



MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? 3 

A twenty-one-year-old girl who signed herself "Still Pure 
Bride" wanted to know what to do about her twenty-four- 
year-old husband who was sunburned on the first day of 
their honeymoon. Although the sunburn had been healed 
for weeks, he continued to smear medicine on his back as 
an excuse to keep his distance from her. 

One reader simply asked: 

"Dear Ann Landers: Please tell me what is life? Thank 
you/' 

Fve been asked how to handle mooching relatives, lech 
erous bosses, free-loading fiances, noisy neighbors, jealous 
husbands, catty girl friends and pathological liars. 

A woman from Little Rock sent a dozen snapshots of 
her gentleman friend and wanted to know if I thought he 
was dyeing his hair. 

People have asked me if they should change churches, 
have another baby, run for public office, submit to nose 
surgery, marry for money, tell a close friend her husband 
is cheating, and hit a neighbor's child "when he's got it 
coming." 

Every letter I receive gets a personal reply in the mail 
if there's a return address and I have eight full-time as 
sistants helping me to tote that bale. I consider this per 
sonal service an, obligation, not only to the troubled ones 
who write for advice, but to the newspapers that print 
my column. 

Giving advice is an imposing responsibility and I am 
aware of the faith and trust placed in me by millions of 
readers. Had I been blessed with the wisdom of Solomon, 
I could not pull out of my hat the answers to all the ques 
tions put to me in a single day. I don't pretend to be an 
authority on every subject, but through the years I have 



A MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? 

been privileged to count authorities in many professions 
among my friends. When I want help with special prob 
lems involving such fields as medicine, psychiatry, law, re 
ligion, business, politics or education, I can turn to my 
friends who are experts and get first-rate advice. They may 
be thousands of miles away, but they are as close to me 
as my telephone. 

People sometimes accuse me of making up letters be 
cause "those things just don't happen/' Occasionally I 
print such an accusation: 

"Dear Ann Landers: IVe been reading your column for 
a long time and I enjoy it a lot, but I'm sure you must 
make up the letters. Nobody could be so stupid as to get 
into the jams I read about in your column. I'm not com 
plaining, mind you, it's good entertainment. Your column 
alone is worth tie price of the newspaper, but I had to let 
you know I'm reading you regularly with tongue in cheek. 

X-Ray Ed" 

"Dear X-Ray; Thanks for the vote of no confidence. It 
bothers me not at all that you think I invent the letters. 
You aren't the only one. 

"What did you think, Ed, about the woman who sued 
her husband for divorce because he insisted that she pay 
him (out of her household budget) union-scale wages for 
emptying the garbage and doing odd jobs around the 
house? If you recall, he was an $18,000 a year vice-presi 
dent of a bank. 

"And how about the man who divorced his wife be 
cause she insisted he wear a chauffeur's uniform and wait 
outside when she went visiting and shopping? 

"And what about the New York woman who had a 
money fight with her husband, went to the bank, drew 
out $7,100 in 50 and 100 dollar bills from their joint bank 



MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? 5 

account and threw the money around on a Manhattan 
street comerto the delight of passers-by. 

"Good entertainment? Well, these incidents aren't 
from my column, Buster. They're recent news stories. 

"Human nature being what it is, it would be a waste 
of time to fabricate letters. Manufactured situations would 
be pale, indeed compared with what people are really up to. 

Ann Landers" 

Of course, I get some phony letters, but the percentage 
of oddball and pornographic mail is surprisingly small (less 
than 4 per cent of the total). 

I've become adept at spotting phony letters, and al 
though Fm fooled occasionally, it doesn't happen often. 
The phony letters are usually neatly prepared manuscripts 
and the story unfolds like a novel. The author is often a 
frustrated amateur who longs to see his literary brainchild 
in print. 

Troubled people don't write masterpieces. The real story 
is rarely told in proper chronological order. Often, im 
portant details are written in the margin, having been 
forgotten in the first telling. 

The worried and upset writer misspells simple words, 
frequently runs out of ink and finishes in pencil. Many 
letters conclude: 

"I'm sorry this is such a messy looking thing, Ann, but 
I'm afraid if I take the time to write it over I'll lose my 
nerve and never mail it. It took an awful lot out of me to 
write it the way it is. Please help me right away/' 

And I do try to help them right away (if the problem 
seems especially urgent I send a telegram). I receive hand 
made gifts from people who can't afford to buy a present 
but they want me to know they appreciate the advice. 
When I lectured recently in Columbus, Ohio, a reader sur- 



6 MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? 

prised me with a lovely oil portrait of "his favorite colum 
nist." It was waiting for me in my hotel suite, elegantly dis 
played on an easel. 

Several months ago I received a china cup and saucer, 
a jar of instant coffee, a bag of sugar, a tin of condensed 
cream and a spoon. The package came from a Toronto 
reader who explained in an accompanying letter that he 
wanted to buy me a cup of coffee because I had given him 
such useful advice on a problem which involved his teen 
age daughter. 

Although no two problems are identical because no two 
people are identical, human problems fall into definite 
patterns. Obviously, problems are often related, one being 
the outgrowth of another. 

The problem of alcoholism, for example, invariably 
hatches a multitude of other problems. The man who 
drinks excessively usually has financial troubles because he 
spends the rent and grocery money in the taverns. He is 
frequently out of work because he takes too much time 
off to dry out. The alcoholic is apt to have marital trouble 
for obvious reasons. 

A common thread is woven into every messed up life. It 
is fear. What are we afraid of? We're afraid of the boss. 
We're afraid our husbands (or wives) are cheating. If we 
are cheating, we're afraid of getting caught. We're afraid of 
business failure, social snubs, in-laws, what the neighbors 
will think. We're afraid of getting old; we are afraid of 
getting sick. 

I was originally drawn to the advice field because it 
seemed like a good way to help people, but I had no idea 
how many frightened, stumbling, driven people need help. 
I was saddened to discover that thousands of people view 
life as "the enemy." They dread the dawn of a new day. I 
was shocked at the number of weary souls who drag their 



MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? 7 

ulcers and migraines to work every morning. I had no idea 
so many American women are kitchen drinkers who at 
tempt to escape reality by drinking themselves into semi- 
consciousness. 

The breakdown of my mail is an enlightening barometer 
of the day-to-day pressures imposed upon us by our society. 
Almost half the letters come from men. Teen-agers, mostly 
girls, contribute heavily. The remaining mail is largely 
from women who are having trouble with their marriages. 
Surprisingly few people write to me about money problems. 

Many people who write for advice don't really want it. 
They simply want to unload. Putting the story down on 
paper is excellent therapy for a heavy heart. A businessman 
who signed himself "Smart Too Late" wrote: 

"Dear Ann Landers: I know you can't untangle the 
mess IVe made of my life, but if I don't talk to someone 
Til blow my top." 

The man went on to tell of an illicit love affair with his 
wife's best friend. He was tortured by guilt, and the guilt 
became unbearable when he was informed that he had 
been named Father of the Year and was to receive an 
award at a civic banquet. 

I advised the father to accept the award and then live 
up to it. Guilt is erosive and more than anything, this man 
needed to stop beating himself and to find a positive, 
constructive approach to his marriage. 

Occasionally a reader will criticize me for injecting 
humor into my column. "People's troubles are no laughing 
matter" I've been told in an admonishing tone. No one 
knows this better than I, but I know, too, that humor 
sometimes takes the sting out of misery. The humor in 
my column is never intentionally cruel; I never insult 



8 MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? 

or make fun of the person with the problem. And I never 
sacrifice sound advice for a laugh. 

My newspaper column affords me the opportunity to 
offer, in capsule form, advice on almost every phase of liv 
ing. Newspaper writers are forever fighting the space prob 
lem, and the most challenging aspect of my work is to 
pack into a few lines sensible and useful advice expressed 
in understandable, lunch-bucket language. 

I love writing a daily advice column, and I had no as 
pirations to branch out and write a book about people's 
problems. My readers, however, changed my mind. They 
told me they clipped columns from their newspapers and 
pasted them into scrap books so if the problem arose again 
they could refer to the advice. They suggested it would be 
enormously useful if they could turn to an Ann Landers 
book for guidance in dealing with life's problems. So I 
decided to write this book. 

I am not attempting to substitute for the psychiatrist, 
the analyst, the doctor, the clergyman, the marriage coun 
selor, the social worker or the lawyer. In fact, I urge thou 
sands of people every month to seek professional help for 
counsel and therapy. We have a complete file on service 
agencies in every city in which my column is printed. We 
often suggest that readers go to the nearest city if the town 
they live in does not have counseling facilities. We supply 
them with the address and telephone number and in some 
cases, the name of the person to see. 

We have received many warm and gratifying letters 
from case workers and directors of agencies who keep us 
informed of the progress of people we have sent to them. 
The most rewarding letters come from alcoholics who have 
found their way to sobriety through Alcoholics Anony 
mous. A reader from Dallas wrote: 



MAY I TELL YOU ABOUT MY OPERATION? g 

"I was a gutter bum, a worthless drunk. I read a letter 
in your column about a guy who went A.A. His problems 
sounded so much like mine I decided to give A.A. a try. 
You'll be happy to know I have been sober for three 
months and I'm sure I have it licked." 

The most pathetic letters come from unmarried preg 
nant girls who are frantic and fearful and don't know 
what to do, or where to go. We have a complete list of 
homes for unwed mothers and we direct the girls without 
delay. One girl wrote: 

''Thank you for sending me to the Florence Crittenton 
Home. I never knew there were people like this in the 
whole world. If it hadn't been for you I would have 
walked into the lake." 

So now, after six years and more than half a million 
letters, this human wailing wall has put tie sum of her 
experience between hard covers. It is my earnest hope that 
this book will help you to recognize your troubles what 
ever they may be as an inevitable, inescapable part of life, 
I hope it will shed a little light in some darkened corner, 
plant hope where there is despair, replace fear with cour 
age and perhaps open a few doors to self-understanding. 



TWO 



WUstlcs and thistles 



I N EVERY BATCH of mail there are surprises, explosive re- 
]{ actions to innocent statements, cries of foul, and tenderly 
worded bouquets. A letter printed in the column which 
evokes a warm "God bless you" from a reader in Hillsdale, 
Michigan, may move a Fort Lauderdale husband to write 
"your advice is lousy. Drop dead." 

My daily readers are unpredictable, super-sensitive, warm 
hearted, critical, and fiercely loyal They are the writin'est, 
hatin'est, lovin'est cross-section of humanity in all the 
world and happiest when they catch me in an error. They 
praise me lavishly when they agree and they slice me to rib 
bons if I trample on a pet theory. 

As I cut through the Everest of mail facing me every 
day, I keep a third eye open for potential column ma 
terial. I try to select letters which cut across the interests 
of a wide variety of readers. I never select a letter because 
I think it will pull mail. It is impossible to predict which 



WHISTLES AND THISTLES 11 

letter will produce what response. Why certain letters and 
not others trigger volumes of mail is a mystery. I am no 
closer to understanding it today than I was six years ago 
when I wrote my first column. 

I experienced my first brush with the strongest union in 
the world "The American Sisterhood of Housewives" 
within weeks after I had become Ann Landers. A man 
from Marshalltown, Iowa wrote: 

"I am a mail carrier. My job starts at 8:30 in the morn 
ing. In my opinion this is time enough for the American 
woman to slip on a dress and run a comb through her 
hair. You'd be shocked if you knew how many women 
answer the door in their nightgowns and barefooted. 
Please say something to let these slobs know they have an 
obligation to the people who have to look at them." 

I thought I disposed of him (however ungrammatically) 
with this: "You ain't never been a woman at 8:30 in the 
morning." 

But the homemakers of America had no intention of let 
ting the scoundrel off with a light tap on the wrist! Hun 
dreds of letters from all over the country poured in. The 
women wrote detailed accounts of what needs to be done 
every morning to get a husband off to work and kids off to 
school. 

"Slip on a dress, indeed," bellowed an irate Detroit 
mother. "It's more important that I put on the baby's 
formula, get the coffee going, fix the oatmeal, pack the 
lunch buckets, check the kids for handkerchiefs, books, 
bus fare and see that their shoes are on the right feet." 

A woman in Toledo ended the rhubarb with: 

"My husband is a mailman. Til bet anything he wrote 
you that letter. He's a fine one to talk about slobs. You 
ought to see him on his day off." 



12 WHISTLES AND THISTLES 

The enthusiasm with which readers jump to the rescue 
of someone who asks for help always surprises me. A simple 
plea from a woman who was having trouble making gela 
tin molds created a small-scale crisis in the Chicago post 
office. 

The defeated housewife wrote: 

"All my friends seem to have such amazing luck with 
their gelatin molds. Some of them can even make it in 
three colors! My gelatin mold is either too rubbery or too 
loose. The fruit either floats on top or it sinks, to the 
bottom. It's giving me an inferiority complex." 

Having experienced similar failures with gelatin molds I 
sympathized with her and invited readers to send in sug 
gestions for us both. Within the week we received over a 
thousand letters containing helpful hints on how to make 
a perfect gelatin mold. 

I once spent two days with obstetricians and lawyers to 
learn how long it takes to produce a baby. I always had 
been under the impression that it takes nine months, but 
my readers planted serious doubts in my mind. 

It all started when a young man wrote that he had mar 
ried "in a hurry" when his girl friend told him she was 
pregnant. 

"Eighteen months have passed," he wrote. "My wife 
has gained 40 pounds, she's been wearing maternity 
clothes for over a year, but there's no sign of a baby. She 
insists this is just a long pregnancy. Is it possible for a 
woman to be pregnant for eighteen months?" 

I had to tell the young man that it sounded like a case of 
excellent salesmanship with no product to back up the 
pitch. 

My reply opened the floodgates. I was bombarded with 



WHISTLES AND THISTLES 13 

letters from hundreds of women who insisted their preg 
nancies ran from 10 to 22 months. (The majority of these 
women had "long-term" babies after their husbands had 
left for overseas.) The winner and still champion was a 
woman in Kentucky who claimed she had been pregnant 
for four years. I wrapped up the free-for-all by printing this: 

"In most humans the average pregnancy is from 270 
to 290 days. In cases where there is no supporting medical 
history but where legal status is important the courts have 
made the following decision: French law holds that the 
husband is the father if a child is born as late as 300 days 
after the death of the husband. German laws allows 320 
days. British law grants 331 days. American law is mod 
eled after the British, so 331 days is the limit in this 
country. Women who claim longer pregnancies aren't 
necessarily tying to put one over. The count can be 
thrown off for a variety of reasons. But if s like I said, 
ladies most pregnancies are nine months. It just seems 
longer." 

A Des Moines mother wrote that she was having an 
affair with the plumber who lived next door. "I got in 
volved/' she admitted, "when I tried to get faucet handles 
at a reduced rate/' She added this practical thought: 

"It's wonderful having him so near. Whenever any 
thing goes wrong with the plumbing, he comes right over 
and fixes it for nothing. I save a lot of money this way 
but if my husband knew he'd brain me." 

I advised her to break off with the man at once, or she 
could wind up with the most expensive faucet handles on 
record. I also suggested that when anything goes wrong 
with her pipes she should hire a plumber and pay him 
union wages. Dozens of plumbers wrote to say thanks. (A 
few plumbers' wives expressed their appreciation, too.) 



14 WHISTLES AND THISTLES 

The Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Union, Local 130, 
made me an honorary member. 

One unforgettable experience was the "battle of the 
bedsheets." A wife who signed herself "Four Poster" wrote 
that she had put brand new sheets on the bed and that 
this had led to real trouble. Her husband raved about the 
luxurious texture of the sheets but he added a dangerous 
phrase, "Why aren't they like this all the time Mother's 
were." The wife informed him that his mother probably 
ironed her sheets but she had no intention of doing so. A 
hot argument followed during which he called her a few 
choice names. She wrote to ask if I thought a wife ought 
to iron bedsheets. 

I replied "Yes, if ironed sheets mean so much to your 
husband, it's worth 30 minutes a week to make him 
happy." I added a homey touch by suggesting that she be 
thankful her marital troubles could be ironed out so easily. 

For this advice I was labeled a traitor to my sex and a 
double-crossing rat. A woman in Utica, New York, closed 
her scathing letter with this: 

"It's easy for you to sit there in your fancy apartment 
in Chicago, Ann Landers, and think of ways for ordinary 
housewives to kill themselves with more work. I'll bet you 
never ironed a bedsheet in your life." 

I told the Utica reader that I had ironed a good many 
bedsheets in my life. "In fact," I proclaimed in print, "if 
all the bedsheets I have ironed were placed end to end 
they'd probably reach from Chicago to Utica." 

My reply quieted the women, but it woke up the men. 
It seemed that almost every male who had completed high 
school math sat down and figured out the number of 
miles between Utica and Chicago. They then figured the 
length of the average bedsheet and the time it would take 



WHISTLES AND THISTLES 1 

to iron it. The mathematics clobbered me. A professor at 
the University of Pittsburgh let me know I would have had 
to iron 55 bedsheets every day for the past 60 years. In 
the face of such statistics I confessed I had taken a wild 
guess. I named my own punishment ten lashes with a 
wet bedsheet. 

Teen-agers let me have it with both barrels whenever I 
"betray" them. For instance: I took the position that twelve- 
and thirteen-year-olds are too young for boy-girl dances. I 
was tagged as "hopelessly square," "a kook/' and "very old- 
fashioned." 

Teen-agers are a forgiving lot, however. The very next 
day I'm a "good egg/' a "living doll/' and "real great" 
especially when I advise mothers to stay out of their 
daughters* diaries and keep their cotton pickin' hands off 
the kids' mail. 

I almost reopened the Civil War when I told an ob 
viously jealous Northern woman that there's nothing un 
educated about a Southern accent, that, in fact, I find it 
feminine and charming. For some mysterious reason many 
women from New York and New Jersey (particularly White 
Plains and Newark) were irritated by my reply and allowed 
as how I was either from the South myself or my husband 
had some "interests" down there. 

Occasionally I've reversed my advice after readers have 
persuaded me I was wrong. The case of the crocheted dress 
is one I'll never forget. A distraught Seattle mother wrote 
that Granny had spent six months crocheting a dress for 
her ten-year-old grandchild to wear to a family reunion. The 
mother wrote that the dress was unattractive and old- 
fashioned . . . "Ann, you know kids don't wear crocheted 
dresses any more." On the other hand, Granny was eighty- 
two years old, well-meaning and sensitive. She would be 
crushed if the little girl didn't wear her crocheted dress to 



l6 WHISTLES AND THISTLES 

the family reunion. What should be done? This was a 
tough one ? but I advised the mother to explain to the child 
that the dress was a labor of love that Granny's feelings 
were more important than looking up-to-the-minute this 
one night of the year. I told her to explain that everyone 
would know she was wearing the dress to DC kind and it 
was more important to be kind than to be stylish. 

Well, I thought this was pretty good advice, but my 
readers did not. A blizzard of letters blew in from all over 
the country. The readers were against me 100 to 1. 

A designer from California wired "For Lord's sake, Ann 
Landers, have a heart. Don't make the kid wear that ugly 
crocheted dress!" I received patterns. People sent me draw 
ings. A mother from Fairbanks, Alaska, wrote: 

"Send the dress to me. I will make a pink taffeta lining 
and overskirt and it will be lovely." 

A reader from Buffalo sent three dollars with a request 
that I buy some red satin ribbon for the crocheted dress 
and send it to the mother. The most amusing letter came 
from an eleven-year-old boy who lives in Phoenix. He wrote: 

"I feel very sorry for that little girl, and I think I can 
help her. My father owns a dry cleaning shop. If she will 
send the dress to him, he will ruin it for her." 

The letter that produced the greatest number of an 
guished screams was from a Chicago father. He said he 
was sick of taking his three sons downtown for haircuts 
and chewing up a ten-dollar bill. "Chicago Pop," as he 
signed himself, suggested parents of large families demand 
that the price of haircuts be reduced, or alternatively, that 
they boycott barbers and buy do-it-yourself kits and cut 
the kids' hair at home. 

I received over two thousand letters from barbers, their 
wives, sweethearts, and children. I had to devote not one 



WHISTLES AND THISTLES 17 

but two columns to the blistering rebuttals. Here are some 
samples from the mail: 

From Chicago; "If I had 'Chicago Pop' in my chair for 
five minutes Fd give him a haircut he'd never recover 
from. If a barber clears $100 a week he's lucky. Barbers 
get no vacation, no pension, no bonus, and no group in 
surance. If haircuts had kept pace with the cost of living, 
they'd be five dollars, not two dollars." 

From Salem, Oregon: "Have you ever heard of a wealthy 
barber?" I replied "Yes. Perry Como" (and promptly re 
ceived a raft of letters complaining about that wisecrack) . 

From Troy: "A friend gave me one of those home kits 
and I followed the 'simple instructions/ The kids' heads 
looked like three miles of bad road. They refused to go to 
school and we had to buy stocking caps for them. My ad 
vice is pay the barber the two dollars!" 

From Seattle: "My dad is a barber, His right elbow is 
stiffening from holding it in the air so much. His legs are 
in terrible condition from standing so long. He needs an 
operation but can't take the time away from the chair." 

From Akron: "The hardest part of barbering is listening 
to nutty chatter all day. You ought to hear the things 
people tell barbers. There are sure a lot of loons in this 
world." 

By the time I finished with the barber mail, I was per 
suaded that the haircut was the best buy in all of America 
and that the price should be increased. 

Second only to the barbers in their ability to articulate 
are homeowners who entertain in their basements. The 
explosion was set off by a Philadelphia reader who signed 
herself "Seven Leagues Under/' 

"What has happened to American entertaining?" she 
wrote. "I refer to people who invite you over for a social 
evening and put you in the cellar pardon me, the recrea- 



l8 WHISTLES AND THISTLES 

tion room. It's insulting, and I for one am tired of sitting 
on beat-up couches and looking at oil burners, clothes lines 
and ratty rugs/' 

I told "Seven Leagues" she had a point. Some recreation 
rooms are lovely but the upstairs is usually nicer and, in 
my opinion, that's where guests should be entertained. 

Hundreds of homeowners took this as a personal insult 
and let me know that their basements were nicer than most 
people's living rooms. A few readers wrote in praise of 
underground entertainment for a reason which had never 
occurred to me. I had to admit they, too, had a point. 
Said one . . . 

"Pm one of those lowbrows' who entertains in the 
basement and I'm darned thankful for such a place. My 
husband plays poker with a bunch of baboons who don't 
have sense enough to use an ashtray. The old table they 
use has three dozen cigarette burns. My sisters have a 
total of fourteen kids who walk on coffee tables and get 
gum and candy on furniture. Even the junk down there 
is too good for them. If Eleanor Roosevelt or the president 
of Harvard came over I might invite them into my living 
room, but for the crumby crowd we go around with the 
cellar is good enough." 

One of the most fascinating encounters with my readers 
might be called "the case of the electronic bridgework." I 
received a letter from a woman who told me she was wor 
ried about her mother-in-law. It seems the older woman 
insisted she was receiving radio messages through her 
bridgework. 

"Of late," the daughter-in-law wrote, "Mother swears 
she is intercepting, through her teeth, secret messages be 
tween Russia and Red China. She wants to go to the 
F.B.I." 



WHISTLES AND THISTLES 19 

Although I always research problems about which there 
may be a question, this one sounded like a sure case of 
overactive imagination. I felt safe in suggesting psychiatric 
care. Soon after the letter and my advice appeared in 
print I received telephone calls and letters informing me 
that I had done the woman a terrible injustice because it 
certainly was possible to "tune in through the teeth/' 

Before the week was out I had stacks of letters from 
readers recounting their own experiences with bridgework 
reception and it seemed that almost everyone in the coun 
try was wired for sound but me. 

An irate reader from Watertown, South Dakota, wrote: 

"It is entirely possible that the woman is bringing in 
messages on her bridgework. For years I was afraid to tell 
anybody I was getting messages through my teeth. I finally 
told my dentist and he said when a person has a certain 
type of metal filling, a sensitive jaw bone could act as a 
conductor and carry the vibrations to the brain." 

A man in New Jersey wrote "I've been getting Station 
WOR in New York regularly." Readers informed me that 
they also received dance music and commercials through 
their hearing aids, dental braces, bobby pins and steam 
radiators. After a while I began to feel underprivileged. I 
have had hundreds of dollars worth of dental work and I 
wasn't getting any entertainment whatever, 

Dr. Morris Brodwin, Associate Professor of Electrical 
Engineering at Northwestern University, set the record 
straight for me. 

"It is possible," he said, "that fillings in the mouth may 
act as a radio receiving set exciting the nerves which, in 
turn, may be interpreted by the brain as 'noise' or intelli 
gence. However, these reports have not been thoroughly 
investigated by competent scientists and consequently no 



2O WHISTLES AND THISTLES 

firm explanation of the physical basis for this phenomenon 
can be given/' 

I was armed for the next letter from a Hartford, Con 
necticut, clubwoman, which read: 

"About that woman who was intercepting messages 
through her bridgework Fd like to tell you what hap 
pened to me along the same lines. I kept hearing voices, 
too, but I was afraid to say anything. You know how 
people are about things like that. Finally I couldn't stand 
it so I told my doctor. He asked me if I could identify 
the voices and I told him that I was sure Sir Francis 
Drake was communicating with me. He recommended a 
psychiatrist I went to the psychiatrist for three years and 
the voice stopped. Now, since I read that letter in your 
column, I am sure I was communicating with Sir Francis 
Drake and I certainly would like to re-establish the con 
nection. I miss him." 

Despite these out-of-the-ordinary examples, my daily mail 
reflects life as millions of people live it. And an authentic 
reflection it is, too. Every batch of mail demonstrates that 
the human animal can be noble, magnanimous, ruthless, 
punishing and sometimes brainless. I never know which 
envelope will contain a glittering example of man at his 
best, or a depressing picture of man at his worst. But no 
day at my desk is without a heart-tug or a nugget of solid 
gold laughter. 

One of the great satisfactions of this work is to know that 
every day 365 days a year I can bring millions of people 
together, to share a common experience or an uncommon 
one. I do not feel that my counsel is invalidated because it 
is sometimes offered with a light touch. Advice spliced with 
humor is not only more palatable, but it is more effective. 
Perhaps it is true as Nietzsche said, "Man suffers so ex 
cruciatingly that he was compelled to invent laughter/' 



i 

THREE 



How to pick a winner 



INCE MARRIAGE is probably the most important single 
decision of a lifetime, it is strange that so many people 
rush into it with less selectivity than they would give to 
the choice of a secondhand car, or a winter coat. 

My desk is stacked with letters that start something like 
this: 

"Dear Ann Landers: Fm ready to call it quits. We've 
been married two years and all we do is fight. I was so 
crazy about Bill when we were going together nobody 
could tell me anything. My folks tried, but I told them 
to mind their own business and let me run my life. When 
Bill and I were dating, our sex life was wonderful. Now I 
hate for him to come near me. What happened to the 
great love affair of the century?" 

An equally distressing letter from a disillusioned twenty- 
two-year-old husband started like this: 

"I've been married three years to a girl who is now 
twenty. She quit high school to marry me. It was her own 



21 



22 HOW TO PICK A WINNER 

idea, but she blames me for ruining her chance to get an 
education. She didn't know one thing about being a wife 
when we got married, but I thought she'd learn. Well, 
she hasn't even tried. The house looks like a pigpen. She 
fixes sandwiches for dinner, or opens tin cans. All she 
wants to do is go roller skating with her girl friends. On 
my wedding day, I was the happiest guy in the world. 
What went wrong?" 

I had to tell the poor fellow, as I have told hundreds of 
the disenchanted, that all marriages are happy, it's living 
together afterward that's tough. 

Thousands of letters from unhappily married people sug 
gest one striking reason for failure. Young romanticists 
spin themselves into a cocoon of dreams and imagine that 
life together is going to be like the marriages they've seen 
in the movies, on TV screens, and in the ads for engage 
ment rings and silverware. 

Unfortunately, a great many American movies are a far 
cry from life as people live it. How many husbands in the 
movies get up in the morning and go to work? I recall 
precious few. The blissfully happy couple live in a beauti 
fully furnished home. They wear lovely clothes, drive ex 
pensive cars and are forever going to formal parties, but 
nobody goes to work. If there are children, they are never 
underfoot, sick, or in soiled play clothes. The maid or 
governess ushers them into the drawing room for a good 
night kiss and shepherds them out again. The movie wife 
is seldom seen wrestling with bills, shopping for groceries, 
harassed by troublesome relatives or involved in anything 
so mundane as housework. The central problem in most 
movie marriages is the other woman who is (naturally) 
younger and more beautiful than the wife. The other 
woman is sometimes married to an attractive man, who 
doesn't work either. 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 23 

The ads for engagement rings say "forever/' but the 
statistics show that the divorce rate in America is at an 
all-time high. The chances for a lasting marriage today 
are approximately one half what they were 30 years ago. 

The silverware ads picture an attractive male in an Ivy 
League suit. His dewy-eyed bride greets him at the garden 
gate. She is dainty in her crisp little house dress, and she 
has a daisy in her hair. Is it any wonder our young people 
expect marriage to be a beautiful song that never ends, 
an adventure in fairyland? Everywhere they look (except 
at home) marriage is heavenly. 

When I speak to high school audiences, I emphasize the 
realities of married life. I tell the teen-agers that marriage 
is the difficult business of living with another human be 
ing. If s in-laws, doctor bills, car payments, dishes in the 
sink, and mortgages. It's disappointment and diaper rash. 
It's the raise or promotion that he almost, but never quite 
gets. It's tears in the pillow at night. 

If teen-agers were given facts instead of fiction, they 
might be less eager to trade their bobby socks for satin 
wedding slippers. And they would be less shaken and be 
wildered when faced with some of the not-so-attractive as 
pects of married life. The young bride who discovers that 
her "dream boat" actually snores feels as if she's been 
robbed. One bride married less than three weeks wrote: 

"I can't discuss this with anyone I know personally be 
cause I'm too ashamed. How come in the morning my 
husband has a beard?" 

Love is great but let's be practical 

Remember that no marriage is free of problems. Be 
realistic, not only about marriage itself, but about the 
person you are considering as a lifetime partner. Remem- 



24 HOW TO PICK A WINNER 

ber that dating couples usually see each other in the most 
flattering light. An aura of saintliness surrounds the be 
loved. While love may not be blind, its vision is something 
other than 20-20. In the mind's eye of a high school girl, 
the football hero may be the most exciting prize in all the 
world. But the football season doesn't last forever and 
unless her halfback can back up his handsome physique 
with manly character qualities, he's a poor marriage risk. 
The glamour of high school and college athletics has lured 
many foolish girls into ill-fated marriages. 
One such wife from Minneapolis wrote: 

"I married the campus hero. I felt lucky to get him. The 
girls in the sorority house envied me. He was so good look 
ing and big. I felt like a feather in his arms. My father 
told me he was a lunkhead and that he wouldn't treat me 
right When he stood me up on dates, my dad boiled. 
I protected him by manufacturing excuses. Now after 
eight years of marriage, Fm fed up with his selfish ways. 
He puts himself before me and the kids in everything. His 
greatest pleasure in life is to show off his scrapbook and 
talk about his college days/' 

My plea for realism among young couples who fancy 
themselves in love has met with lively opposition, particu 
larly among university students. Many coeds with whom I 
spoke at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, criti 
cized my concern as "materialistic and calculating." 

"Projection is of prime importance," I told them. "Try 
to imagine, temporarily, how you'll feel about that 'living 
doll' in 15 years, after his hair has fallen out and he has 
gained 30 pounds. Will you still be crazy about him even 
though his looks are gone and you have to use a second 
hand washing machine and make do with last year's Easter 
hat?" 

All people don't want the same things out of life, and 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 25 

this is good. Some women are content with a man of lim 
ited horizons who wants to work 37^2 hours a week for a 
modest salary. Others want an aggressive type, one who 
strives to scale financial, artistic or intellectual heights. 

I make no plea for either the go-getter or the unambi 
tious. I do plead, however, that those who are considering 
marriage think and plan ahead. You can accomplish this 
only by discussing goals and objectives during courtship. 
Decide what you want out of life and then choose someone 
who shares your dreams and objectives. 

Many an unfortunate marriage could have been avoided 
if the two parties had discussed frankly, in advance, what 
each one wanted. Here is an example: 

"My husband won't be satisfied until he has all the 
money in the world. He works 16 hours a day. He's a 
stranger to his children. I may as well be a widow for all 
the help he gives me. This beautiful home we live in 
doesn't mean a thing. Fd rather live in three rooms and 
have my husband with me evenings." 

The other side of the coin looks like this: 

"Joe has no ambition. He could add 40 per cent to his 
income if he'd work Saturdays and a few evenings a 
week. But no, he'd rather take the kids fishing or fool 
around in the garage with his junky sports car. I tell him 
there's more to being a father than playing baseball with 
the kids in the backyard. If he had any gumption, he'd 
earn a little overtime so the girls could have decent clothes 
and the boys could have new bikes instead of secondhand 
ones. Our kids will never go to college unless they put 
themselves through. We haven't got two cents to our 
name." 

The lesson in these contrasting letters is this: Decide 
what is important, then choose someone who shares those 



26 HOW TO PICK A WINNER 

concepts. A solid marriage is based on reality. Dream 
castles are lovely to visit, but don't make the mistake of 
hying to live in them permanently. It won't work. 

What's your hurry? 

A great many divorces could have been prevented had 
the couple gone together another 90 days. They would 
have become better acquainted, and probably would not 
have embarked on marriage in the first place. 

In much of the mail these words appear: "I'm mad 
about him. It was love at first sight/' I advise them to look 
again, they may see things they hadn't noticed before. Love 
at first sight is a myth, in spite of the poets' claims. 
Love does not konk you on the head like a chunk of loose 
plaster. It must take root and grow, a day at a time. Hap 
pily married people who claim they fell in love at first sight 
didn't really. They were smitten on first meeting and the 
fine qualities they imagined they saw proved to be present 
after they got to know each other. 

Frequently a purely chemical reaction is mistaken for 
love. One college freshman wrote: 

"I know it's love. Whenever I see her, my knees turn 
to water and my heart pounds like a triphammer. It's got 
to be love. It can't be anything else." 

A strong physical reaction is a powerful plus and should 
be a factor in the final selection. But a compelling sexual 
attraction is not a substantial hook on which to hang a 
marriage. And this is where so many "madly in love" 
couples who marry in a hurry make their greatest mistake. 
They are unable to distinguish between love and sex. They 
learn too late that they can't live their entire lives in the 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 2J 

bedroom. A lusty young groom may be less critical of a 
scorched collar if his love life is exciting, but after the 
first fires of romance have receded the husband views his 
marriage with less heat and more light. When the "great 
lover" begins to notice that buttons are missing from his 
shirt and that his wife doesn't cook (she merely defrosts), 
the accumulation of irritations would make even the cur 
rent sex symbol less attractive. 

This letter from Albany, New York, illustrates the trag 
edy of a too hasty (and too early) marriage: 

"I'm nineteen and my divorce will be final next week. 
I'm writing to find out where I failed. I'm still young and 
hope to marry again, but I don't want to make the same 
mistake. Stu and I started to go together in our senior 
year of high school. He was my first serious sweetheart. 
We tried to keep our feelings under control, but it was 
no use. After three months of going steady and being to 
gether all the time, we couldn't control ourselves. It was 
pure heaven when we were together, even though we had 
to sneak around a lot. 

"We got married two months after high school gradua 
tion. I went to work in a candy shop and he got a job in a 
garage. For about four months we were blissfully happy. 
Then I noticed that the sex interest was slacking off, for 
both of us. He'd tell me he was worn out from a hard day 
at the garage, and I'd fib about having a headache. After 
six months of pretending we had a frank talk. He told me 
I was a nice person but he didn't love me and the thrill 
had gone out of our marriage. I confessed I felt the same 
way about him. We parted friends and I filed for divorce. 
Please tell me what was wrong. We were so in love." 

I told the nineteen-year-old divorcee that I saw no evi 
dence of love in their relationship. Their marriage was based 
on physical desire, a frail plank on which to build a life to- 



28 HOW TO PICK A WINNER 

gether. When their sexual appetites reached the saturation 
point, their great "love" had had it. The forbidden aspect 
of the romance made it glamourous and exciting, but when 
their love-making became legal they lost interest. 

Pre-marital experimentation can stunt the growth of a 
relationship. When a couple shares intimacies too early 
in the game, they usually stop talking, and stop learning 
about each other. Physical contact becomes more thrilling 
than conversation, and the lines of emotional and spiritual 
communication begin to break down. 

There is no substitute for time in testing the durability 
of a relationship. A couple should go together long enough 
to view each other in a variety of circumstances. Com 
plaints of this nature are numerous: 

"I never knew until after we were married that he had 
such a violent temper" ... "I was shocked to find he 
was such a mama's boy" ... "I wasn't aware that he 
couldn't stand children." 

Men complain similarly: 

"I didn't know she was such a liar" ... "I had no idea 
she drank in the daytime too" . . . "I didn't know she 
was so lazy." 

Although it is impossible to know all about a person 
until you share a life together under a single roof a great 
many things can be learned during courtship if a couple 
will take the time. If s easy to be charming when life goes 
well, but how does he behave when the going is rocky? 
Is he dependable? Does he have patience? Is he consider 
ate? Is he understanding? Is he honest? The individual 
who conducts himself with maturity under stress will make 
a reliable marriage partner. So time time to test him in 
the clutch can be your greatest ally. 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 29 

What can you share? 

The more you have in common with the person you 
marry the better your chances for a successful marriage. 
Although there are notable exceptions (we all have our pet 
examples), couples who share similar economic, religious, 
racial, and educational backgrounds have fewer marital 
problems. The reason is obvious. There are fewer areas of 
conflict, fewer things to fight about. 

There's an old joke that if the rich girls married poor 
boys and the rich boys married poor girls, the money would 
be spread around and poverty would be abolished. This is 
a delightful theory, but the experts know that marriages of 
people from opposite ends of the economic spectrum often 
fail. 

Few principles are more deeply embedded in our society 
than the right to marry whom we please, and the sugges 
tion that economic status should be considered may sound 
downright un-American. But problems are bound to crop 
up when two people who have been reared differently un 
dertake to share a life. Surprisingly enough, my mail indi 
cates that the partner with the money is seldom the 
trouble maker. The one who marries wealth usually creates 
the problems. He is unable to shake off a feeling of in 
feriority and often attempts to get off the defensive by 
attacking. The following lines written by a San Francisco 
woman illustrate the point: 

'Ted's family had nothing. My family was prominent in 
social and financial circles. He said we were from different 
worlds, but I assured him our love could bridge the gap. 
I was willing to live on his salary which meant doing with 
out many things I'd been accustomed to. The trouble be 
gan on our honeymoon. He accused my parents of putting 
on a ridiculously lavish wedding to flaunt their wealth. 



30 HOW TO PICK A WINNER 

He said his family felt out of place and it was my family's 
fault. After a few months his needling became intolerable. 
He'd look at me and say "You miss going to the club, 
don't you?' I'd say 'No.' He'd call me a liar and I'd end 
up in tears. This sort of cruelty went on for two years. 
Finally I got so thin and nervous, I knew that if I didn't 
leave him I'd have a complete breakdown. When I packed 
and went home, everyone said 'She couldn't take it. He 
couldn't make enough money to keep her satisfied/ I'm 
not writing for advice it's too late for that. I'm writing 
to let you know that a marriage between the haves and 
have-nots can be a terrible uphill fight, but not for the 
reasons most people imagine." 

Educational background is an important factor often ig 
nored when two people fancy themselves in love. One 
young man wrote: 

"If I had been listening to the girl instead of just looking 
at her, I might have avoided this horrible mistake. She is a 
doll with a sawdust head." 

Many of the letters from teen-agers who want to quit 
high school to go to work or get married sound as if they 
had all been written by the same person: 

"School bores me; I'm not learning anything. I can get 
a job and earn good money and buy some nice clothes. 
Why should I stay in this dumb place?" 

I urge them to stay in school and get that diploma no 
matter how boring and pointless it may seem. I tell them 
about the thousands who have written to say they could 
kick themselves for quitting that it was the most foolish 
thing they ever did. I warn them of the nagging feeling of 
inferiority they'll inevitably experience. 

Well-educated women who marry poorly educated men 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 31 

seem not to notice the glaring grammatical defects and 
limited intellectual interests until after they've been mar 
ried a few years. This always strikes me as odd. It's as if 
they had been totally deaf during courtship. One such 
situation was described by a Boston wife. She wrote: 

'The children ask me why Daddy says 'ex-scape' instead 
of 'escape' and Tiave went/ When they ask him, he gets 
furious and accuses me of putting them up to it. In com 
pany his grammar is so bad it's embarrassing. Some of his 
sentences don't have verbs and no one can follow his con 
versation. He refuses to go to night school or hire a tutor. 
What can I do?" 

I told her there was nothing she could do. The husband 
who resents being corrected and will make no effort to 
help himself is hopeless. Married people who write about 
such problems are advised to tolerate the ear-grating lan 
guage in silence and concentrate instead on the positive 
qualities of the person. You can't divorce a man because 
he says "have went" 

When engaged people write with this complaint, I warn 
them that if the beloved's poor grammar and lack of gen 
eral knowledge is a thorn in the side during courtship, it is 
bound to be a bone in the throat after marriage. 

Often in my column I use the phrase "marriage is not a 
reform school/' The notion that a man or woman can be 
made over after marriage is pure poppycock. A young 
woman from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who wrote "He drinks 
a little too much but promises to cut down after we are 
married" got this reply: 

"If he drinks 'a little too much' now, he'll probably 
drink a lot too much after you many him. A man who 
won't keep the cork in the bottle for his sweetheart, cer 
tainly won't do it for his wife/' 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 



The young lady who orders the most expensive dinner 
on the menu, hints for costly gifts, and wants to go to 
high-priced places when she knows her boy friend is having 
a financial struggle is a poor marriage bet. She is not likely 
to be a frugal wife, willing to cut corners and do without 
Instead, she will probably live up to the last dollar and 
keep him forever in debt. 

When I receive letters from girls who confide "my fi- 
anc6 lost his temper and slapped me a few times shall I 
have a word with him?" I tell them by all means, and the 
word should be "Good-bye! " A woman who puts up with 
"a few slaps and punches" during courtship can expect 
loose bridgework and worse if she marries the man. 

Superficial changes, however, are often made after mar 
riage. A man may get his wife to cut her hair or let it grow, 
a woman may inveigle her husband into wearing more con 
servative neckties. But such minor triumphs have nothing 
to do with basic character. I urge engaged couples to take 
a good hard look at one another as they are now, because 
the husband or wife is going to be a great deal like the 
sweetheart, minus the halo and the wings. 

In our society it is inevitable that people of different 
religious faiths fall in love and marry. It cannot be denied 
that some mixed marriages work out well, but the failures 
outnumber the successes. Rabbis, priests, and ministers 
have consistently opposed mixed marriages because they 
agree it's a difficult hurdle, and marriage has enough hur 
dles without adding this one. 

Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz of Washington, D.C., says in 
his pamphlet, Love and Marriage, that a study of 13,000 
people in Maryland between the ages of 16 and 24 in 
dicated: 

Where both parents were Jewish, one out of 24 came 
from a broken home. 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 33 

Where both parents were Catholic, it was one out of 16. 

Where both parents were Protestant, it was one out 
of 15. 

Where parents were of different religions, it was one 
out of 6. 

The shakiest interfaith marriages involve a Protestant 
wife and a Catholic husband. The second most unsuccess 
ful marriages are between Jewish husbands and Gentile 
wives. This combination occurs 20 times more often than 
the Jewish wife and the Gentile husband, which for some 
reason is a more lasting combination. 

Psychiatrists tell us that the person who marries out of 
his faith may do so as an act of unconscious rebellion 
against his parents. The rebel may choose a partner who 
is "out of bounds" as a means of punishing a domineering 
mother or father. Some authorities claim that the ultimate 
in rebellion is conversion to another religion. It is a means 
of rejecting not only one's parents, but one's people and 
even one's God. 

In my column I have taken an unqualified stand against 
interfaith dating and interfaith marriage. Sharp criticism 
has been the result, particularly from teen-agers who want 
to date outside their religion (frequently against the wishes 
of their parents). When they write to me for support, I 
tell them their parents are right and to listen to them. A 
teen-ager from Lafayette, Indiana, wrote: 

"My folks don't want me to go with Mike because he's 
Catholic. I say Catholics are just as good as anybody else. 
I think it's undemocratic to hold a person's religion 
against him. Please tell my folks they are narrow-minded 
and bigoted and that I should be allowed to pick my boy 
friends for character and brains and personality. Religion 
should be left out of it." 



34 HOW TO PICK A WINNER 

I advised the young woman that there's nothing un 
democratic or bigoted about parents who want a solid and 
lasting marriage for their children. Teen-agers who date 
outside their religion clearly run the risk of marrying out 
side their religion. Mixed marriages have two strikes against 
them. Why look for trouble? 

The mixed marriages that succeed are usually between 
two people who are lukewarm to religion and willing to 
settle for a third affiliation, or none at all. If one is devout 
and the other has no strong religious feelings, it is some 
times possible for the indifferent one to accept the faith 
of his beloved without feeling enslaved. 

Often young people who claim to have no strong reli 
gious feelings and are willing to drift along with a mate of 
a different faith, change their minds after the children 
come along. One such situation was described in this letter 
from an Elmira, New York, man: 

"Religion was not discussed much in our family. I 
didn't think it was important. I married a Catholic girl 
who was so devout I used to tease her about being a 
fanatic. When we got married, I signed papers agreeing to 
raise our children in the Catholic faith. I never thought it 
would bother me, but I was mistaken. We have five kids 
now and all of them attend parochial school. It's costing 
me several hundred dollars a year which could well be 
spent on other things. We live right across the street 
from a brand new public school, but our kids have to 
take the bus and go two and a half miles to the parochial 
school. My oldest daughter doesn't like parochial school, 
but her mother won't let her change. We fight about this 
a lot What can I do?" 

I informed the gentleman from Elmira that there was 
nothing he could or should do now. He made his decision 
when he married and he must keep his word. 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 35 

The following excerpts from my mail demonstrate the 
wide range of interfaith marriage problems: 

"Fm a Christian girl who married a Jew. His parents 
are cold to me. I feel like an outsider." 

"I'm a Jew who married a Christian girl. Her parents 
are cold to me. I feel like an outsider." 

"My mother is a Catholic and my Dad is a Baptist. I 
was brought up as a Catholic. Fve studied all religions 
and the Unitarian Church makes the most sense to me. 
I am seventeen and feel I should be allowed to choose my 
own religion. Both my parents are furious with me." 

"I'm a Presbyterian who married a devout member of 
the Church of the Latter Day Saints. She won't allow 
cigarettes, liquors, or coffee in the house. When we were 
going together, I thought she'd loosen up, but she got 
worse. I'm ready to walk out" 

"I'm a Norwegian blonde who married a Mexican. 
Mexicans are Caucasians according to anthropologists, but 
not according to my father. The way he treats my hus 
band you'd think I married outside my race or something. 
We are both miserable." 

"I'm Abie's Irish Rose, only my marriage isn't turning 
out like the play. My mother-in-law brings her own dish 
and silverware when she comes to our house for dinner. 
I buy kosher meat, but she won't eat it because it wasn't 
cooked in a kosher pan. If this isn't nuts, what is? When 
my husband sticks up for her, I could brain him." 

"My parents go to different churches. On my sixteenth 
birthday (and it comes up next week) I'm supposed to 
decide which faith to choose. I'm so mixed up I could die. 
My father talks to me privately about his faith and my 
mother tries to sell me on hers, I've gone to both churches 
and can't make up my mind. My mother has hinted if I 



36 HOW TO PICK A WINNER 

choose my father's church she is through with me. My 
father has said almost the same thing. What can I do?" 

Freedom to worship as we choose is a root element of 
our society. This principle embraces the freedom to choose 
a lifetime partner, I nonetheless urge those who ask my 
advice to select someone of their own race and religious 
faith. All the evidence gathered by marriage counselling 
services, all the sociological studies, the divorce statistics 
and the pronouncements of clergymen of every faith dem 
onstrate that marriages between individuals who share the 
same religious beliefs stand a better chance of succeeding 
than mixed marriages. 

If you are hopelessly in love with someone of another 
faith and, knowing the odds are against it, still wish to try 
for a successful marriage, take heart you may be the ex 
ception that proves the rule. 

To sum up 

1. The more you have in common with the one you 
choose, the better your chance for a successful marriage. 
This means religious training, cultural, social, and financial 
background. The old saying "opposites attract" may be 
true in the field of electromagnetics, but it seldom works 
out in choosing a lifetime partner. 

2. Don't marry on the spur of the moment. If love is 
real, it will last. The tired line "marry in haste, repent at 
leisure" may be a clich4 but it still makes good sense. 

3. Don't marry a person whose chief attraction is sexual. 
A marriage based on sex will fall apart when the passions 
cool. 

4. Don't marry with the intention of changing your be 
loved to meet your specifications. It won't work. If during 



HOW TO PICK A WINNER 37 

courtship a person is unfaithful, a heavy drinker, a gambler, 
or abusive, marriage will not provide the magic cure. 

5. Choose someone who wants the same things from life 
that you want. Discuss in detail your aims, gods, and ob 
jectives. Marriage should mean companionship and build 
ing a life together. 

6. Approach marriage as a permanent relationship and 
not as an experiment which can be tossed aside if it doesn't 
work. Marriage is a sacred promise made before God and 
man it's a lifetime contract till death do you part. 



FOUR 



How important is sex in marriage? 



". . . they were both naked, the man 
and his wifeand they were not ashamed." 

Genesis 2:25 



ORE DIVORCES START in the bedroom than in any 
other room in the house. And this is only part of 
the story. Millions of married couples who present a 
picture of contentment to the outside world have un 
satisfactory sex relations, or none at all. 

Judging by my mail ? the number one problem in Amer 
ica today is the man and wife problem; more married peo 
ple write to me about sex difficulties than any other sub 
ject. Timid women and shy men will write to a newspaper 
columnist for help because it provides the protection of 
anonymity. They will put on paper words they could never 
speak I receive thousands of letters which start much the 

38 




HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 39 

same as this one from a woman who lives in Scarsdale, 

New York: 

"I can't talk to my doctor about this because he's a close 
family friend. Our clergyman is married to my aunt, so 
he's out. I probably wouldn't have the nerve to discuss 
this with anyone who knows me anyway. You are my only 
hope. My husband hasn't touched me in five months " 

In this presumably enlightened era, there is a shocking 
degree of ambivalence (and just plain ignorance) about 
what sex really should mean. In an unhealthy way the sub 
ject of sex has been overworked on the screen, on the stage 
and on TV and radio. The glamour of "sex appeal 7 ' screams 
at us from the billboards. Sex sells soap, perfume, coffee, 
automobiles, mattresses, beer, mouth wash, hair tonic, 
deodorants and cigarettes. The big idea is to be "desir 
able" so someone will "love" you. 

So what's wrong with being wanted and loved? Nothing. 
But sex and love are not one and the same. Our Madison 
Avenue, sex-oriented culture is producing thirteen-year- 
olds whose imaginations are seven years ahead of their 
emotional development. The relentless barrage of provoca 
tive pictures and slogans, the silken promises, all create 
premature desires in adolescents. Young people are un 
able to make any distinction between love and sex. And 
small wonder, a great many adults have the same problem. 

There are some who say too much has been written 
about sex already and that the best way to put sex in per 
spective is to play it down or ignore it. Ignoring a problem 
or sweeping it under the rug will not dispose of it. Others 
insist that because sex is "natural," a married couple will 
catch on without any coaching from the sidelines. And 
this last is a dangerous over-simplification. Two people who 
have been reared with healthy sex attitudes will surely have 



40 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

an easier time, but no couple should marry with the naive 
notion that nature will favor them with a harmonious sex 
life. 

Americans today are more frank and articulate about sex 
than their grandparents were. We hear words like "libido" 
and heterosexual" at study groups and cocktail parties. 
Some bartenders sound like psychiatrists. Almost everyone 
talks the vernacular. But bandying the words about doesn't 
mean we are able to relate them effectively to our personal 
lives. Possession of knowledge doesn't insure that we will 
be able to apply it. It's not what we know, but what we are 
able to do with what we know that counts. 

All of us are acquainted with physicians who warn their 
patients against over-eating, and excessive drinking and 
smoking. Yet often they themselves are dangerously over 
weight, they drink too much and smoke three packs of 
cigarettes a day. 

Dr. Allan Fromme points out in his book The Psychol 
ogist Looks at Sex and Marriage that the formula for a 
wholesome sex life is really quite simple. He says: 

"In order to enjoy sex all we need is the right attitude 
toward it; namely an unadulterated appreciation, or favor 
able opinion, of it." 

In this chapter I intend to discuss the sex problems 
about which most married people write me. For every thou 
sand who write, there are many many more thousands who 
want to know the answers. 

We shape our attitudes toward sex at an early age and we 
are influenced chiefly by our parents. The manner in which 
parents react to our childish curiosity about the "difference 
between boys and girls" is what gives us our first inkling. 
From the beginning, most children are given the vague 
notion that something is "wrong" with sex. When young 
sters are caught "playing doctor" (which they all do, as a 



HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 41 

method of exploring) they are usually punished and told 
such things are "nasty" and "bad." 

Recently I was visiting in the home of friends who I 
considered enlightened. Their two-year-old son suddenly 
appeared in the living room at 11:30 p.m. without a stitch 
of clothing. The mother was horrified, the father was 
speechless. Finally he shouted: 

"You're a bad boy to come out before company with no 
clothes on." And then in a taunting, childish tone, the 
father added: 

"Shame, shame double shame everybody knows your 
name." 

And so it was with most of us. Before we learned any 
thing useful about the human body, we were made to feel 
there was something wrong with it. It's difficult to go back 
and unlearn what we have learned. And it is pointless to 
blame our parents for rearing us with warped ideas. They 
did the best they could. This was the way they were 
brought up. And, if it's any comfort, this is the way 95 
per cent of the children in America were brought up 35 
years ago. 

The frigid, frustrated, disappointed and unfulfilled who 
write for help with sex problems range from sixteen to 
eighty-four years of age. They are bootblacks and bankers, 
barmaids and Boston Back Bay society matrons. Some who 
write are unbelievably ignorant and they express themselves 
in gutter talk because it's the only language they know. 
Others use terms so technical I've had to send the letters 
to physicians for translation. These thousands of unhappy 
people share a common problem sex. 

One day's mail produced the following: 

"Hazel acts as if she's doing me a favor. I practically 
have to beg her. She has more headaches than any woman 
who ever lived." 



42 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

"Jack never puts his arms around me unless he wants 
something. He's so matter-of-fact about sex, it's disgusting. 
He makes me feel like a prostitute/' 



Ruth wants an expensive trinket, she bribes me. 
I'm sick and tired of paying for her favors. She comes 
from a socially prominent New England family, I can't 
understand where she learned such ideas." 

"Harvey is after me all the time. I can't even take off 
my stockings in his presence. There must be something 
wrong with him. Maybe he's a sex maniac." 

"Paul and I are both forty-four. I'm too young to dry up. 
Last year he told me we're getting too old for 'that stuff 
and to forget it. He's afraid he'll have a heart attack." 

"I'm married to a chunk of ice. I told Mary a year ago 
if she didn't warm up, I'd find someone who would. She 
said 'Go ahead. I don't care what you do so long as you 
don't bother me.' " 

Sex attitudes represented in each of these situations re 
sulted from childhood training. If a girl grows up believing 
that sex is vulgar and nasty or a nuisance that women must 
tolerate because men like it, she will not suddenly believe 
it is beautiful and meaningful simply because a clergyman 
says a few words and hands her a document making it legal. 

Our culture insists on female chastity. "Nice girls don't 
do such things" is drummed into the heads of young girls. 
Sex is forbidden. Then, suddenly she is a married woman 
and she's expected, automatically, to abandon her inhibi 
tions and give herself freely, with no feelings of guilt. 

Perhaps the most useful single idea to underline is this: 
sexual desires are normal and natural. We are born with 
sex drives just as we are born with the instinct to satisfy 
hunger or thirst Sex is part of a divine plan. God made the 



HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 43 

sex act the most pleasurable and wondrous of all human 
experiences to insure the propagation of the species. 

If sexual relations in marriage produce strong feelings of 
guilt, shame, or fear feelings which interfere with a satis 
factory physical relationship you need professional help to 
rid yourself of these crippling emotions. Depending on the 
nature of the problem, it may take four visits with a mar 
riage counselor, three visits with a clergyman, two visits with 
the family doctor, or four years with a psychiatrist. The im 
portant thing is to get help. If you broke your leg, would 
you go to an orthopedist or would you limp along forever 
on one leg? With the help available today, it is senseless to 
go through life hobbled by sick ideas. 

Some are cold but few are frozen 

The frigid woman is the special target of dissatisfied 
husbands. Most men who complain about the sexual as 
pect of their marriage sound like Mr. X., who wrote from 
a small town in Wisconsin: 

"She's a chunk of ice just plain cold. When we were 
going together, I couldn't get to first base. I thought it 
was because she was so refined and had such high stand 
ards. Now I know she's just a cold tomato/' 

Women who get no pleasure from sexual relations 
should see a gynecologist to determine if the cause is or 
ganic. Although the chances are slim, it is possible a 
woman's lack of interest is due to a thyroid condition or a 
pituitary gland that isn't functioning properly. 

In most cases, however, the problem is psychological and 
not physical. The frigid woman usually has a low opinion 
of sex, is afraid of it or feels guilty about it. Young girls 
who were trained from early childhood to beware of men 



44 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

and their "evil ways" look upon sex with disgust. After 
years of fighting off the advances of men, it is difficult to 
relax and enjoy it. Most frigid women inherited this miser 
able legacy from a parent who equated sex with sin. Such 
a twisted idea makes it impossible to find pleasure in mari 
tal relations. 

Problems involving female frigidity often are rooted in 
the early relationship with the father. A girl who feared and 
hated her father in childhood may identify all males with 
him and be unable to have a mature love for any man. An 
unusually close relationship between a father and daughter 
can, on the other hand, produce the same unhappy result. 
The father-adoring woman may unconsciously substitute 
her husband for her father, and this incestuous feeling can 
freeze her totally. Professional help is needed to enable her 
to perform properly as a wife and love-partner. 

No woman (or man) is "born cold." And it is an old 
wives' tale that Negroes are "hot-blooded" and Scandi 
navians are "cold-blooded." Sexual activity is regulated by 
glandular functions which are common to humans of all 
races, and by emotional conditioning, which is a matter of 
early training and environment 

Occasionally a woman who has been branded frigid by 
her husband will write and tell me that her coldness can be 
traced to the ignorance of a selfish spouse. A Pittsburgh 
secretary wrote: 

"My mother was a warm and affectionate woman who 
loved life. I was the same way until I married Grant. He 
was demanding, inconsiderate and so brutal in his love- 
making that I grew to hate it." 

I advised this girl to insist that Grant go with her to a 
marriage counselor. Talking out the problem with an ex 
pert in the field can do wonders. Often a man is unaware 



HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 45 

that his wife is "cold' because she resents his approach. 
The woman who feels she is being assaulted is not about to 
find beauty and satisfaction in the sex act. 
A reader from Wichita wrote: 

"My husband says I'm a cold fish, and maybe I am, but 
how can I be otherwise? Sex to him is about as romantic 
as a sneeze. When he's through, he's through. No word 
of love, no pat of tenderness, no sign of warmth or affec 
tion. Two minutes later he's snoring his head off." 

Earlier in this chapter I said that most men who write to 
me complain about cold-tomato wives. Do you know what 
the majority of women write about? They want to know 
what is "respectable" in married love. "Are there any moral 
limits?" they ask. I have consulted with clergymen of all 
faiths, physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists. They all 
agree that there is nothing indecent or unnatural in mar 
ried love, provided it is agreeable to both parties and 
provided there are no harmful or painful effects. Sexual ac 
tivity is the most private and intimate of all human rela 
tionships. It is the language of love. Married couples 
should feel free to express themselves as they please. 

A woman from Kalamazoo wrote: 

"I think I married a nut. He insists on making love with 
the lights on. He says I'm the one who is off my rocker. 
How about this?" 

I explained to Kalamazoo that neither of them is neces 
sarily a nut, but that her husband's attitude toward sex is 
probably healthier than hers. I suggested that her false 
modesty probably covers feelings of guilt. She considers 
sex something that should be hidden, and darkness is best 
for hiding. This does not mean that love-making should be 
conducted under kleig lights, but the lighting or lack of it 
should be a matter of mature choice. The decision should 



46 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

not be dictated by guilt or unresolved childhood inhibi 
tions. 

I urge married couples to tell one another if something 
bothers them in their love-making. I'm astonished by the 
number of married couples who tolerate unhappiness in 
martyred silence when one sentence or two could eliminate 
the problem. Remember, you married a human being, not a 
mind-reader. If something is annoying or unpleasant, say so. 

A young bride from Youngstown, Ohio, wrote that when 
her husband became amorous, he insisted on blowing into 
her ear. "I'm sure he saw this done in the movies and 
thinks it's a great technique, but it just drives me nuts! I 
hate it" 

I sent the woman a telegram saying, "Just tell him to 
stop it" She replied in an air mail, special delivery letter 
the following day: "I took your advice. My husband asked 
me why I hadn't mentioned it before. He thought I liked 
it, I guess I was afraid of hurting his feelings, but now I 
see how foolish I was." 

A Philadelphia accountant wrote that his wife was an 
attractive and desirable woman; he said: , 

<r WeVe been married seven years and something has 
bothered me from the beginning. She has a habit of 
plumping up the pillows on the bed when we are in a 
romantic mood. My mother used to do this when I was 
sick, and it reminds me of her. When I think about my 
mother, I can't think of sex. It has caused a lot of trouble. 
Fm afraid to mention this to my wife for fear she'll think 
I'm crazy. How can I overcome this mental hazard?" 

I advised the young accountant that he would probably 
never be able to overcome completely the mental hazard. 
So long as he lived, every time a pillow was plumped under 
his head he would be reminded of his mother. I suggested 



HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 47 

that he simply throw the pillows out of the bed before his 
wife could get at them. 

A month later I received a letter from a Philadelphia 
woman. She said: 

"I cannot give you my name and address, but please 
answer me in the confidential part of your column. Call 
me 'Baffled/ My husband is an accountant. We've been 
married seven years and have had some trouble adjusting 
to each other sexually, but I guess this is natural. About 
three weeks ago my husband started tossing ihe pillows 
out of bed. Since then our sex life has greatly improved. 
Have you ever heard of this before? What possible effect 
could this have?" 

I replied to "Baffled": "He has decided he doesn't like 
pillows. If it works, it's good. Forget it." 

I cannot overemphasize the importance of open discus 
sion. A man in Los Angeles wrote to thank me for en 
couraging him to ask his wife why she was unresponsive 
and often did her laundry at night to avoid going to bed 
with him. 

"I thought my bedroom approach was manly and that I 
was in complete command of the situation," he wrote, "but 
after talking it out with Marie, I discovered that she con 
sidered me much too rough anything but romantic." 

Some women, on the other hand, prefer a man who is 
aggressive, decisive, even demanding. A husband who is 
"too courteous" in his love-making offers little physical 
satisfaction to a woman who wants to be dominated. Sex 
is a complicated and sensitive method of communication. 
It must be learned through practice and this is best ac 
complished when two partners help one another. Beginners 
are bound to be clumsy in love-making. Perfection requires 
time, patience, and mutual guidance. 



48 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

I've received letters from young brides who were deeply 
disappointed in the honeymoon. 

"It wasn't at all what I expected," complained a twenty- 
year-old. "We left the wedding reception at midnight and 
drove 150 miles. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we 
were both so tired we couldn't see straight. I had always 
dreamed that my wedding night would be the most 
glorious night of my life. Instead it was a nightmare." 

This couple (and many others in similar circumstances) 
were influenced by all the romantic novels they had read 
and all the Grade-B movies they had seen. How much 
wiser to have spent the night in a local hotel, or if they 
were determined to drive off amid a shower of rice and 
old shoes they should have gotten a good night's sleep 
after reaching their destination. 

Men have fewer psychological sex problems than fe 
males, but when they occur they are devastating. The in 
ability to perform sexually is called impotence. It is humili 
ating because the husband is afraid he lacks masculinity. 
Many men fear there is something "wrong" with them when 
impotence occurs, and obviously the first step to remedial 
action is consultation with a physician to determine 
whether there is an organic disturbance. The chances are 
one hundred to one, however, that the problem is emo 
tional and not physical. 

Impotent (and ignorant) men are a favorite target for 
quacks. Readers frequently send me ads clipped from cheap 
magazines which promise the return of vigor and "youth" 
for two dollars, postage prepaid. I have written hundreds of 
letters to men advising them that the "love potions" and 
"nature-restoring creams" are useless and to spend their 
money instead on professional help. 



HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 49 

In the majority of cases impotence is the result of guilt, 
a conflict between what he feels is right and wrong. In our 
society (say what you will) the male is not likely to be 
chaste and virginal until marriage. His mother, father or 
clergyman may hint strongly, or even demand that he "be 
have himself," but the fact is that most high school boys 
have had sexual relations by the time they are seniors. 

A young man who has had strict upbringing often hesi 
tates to experiment with girls in his own social crowd. 
Furthermore he may hear the older fellows say that sexual 
relations are easier to come by if he selects a girl who 
doesn't know him. So he may prowl around in a car and 
pick up a girl off the street or in a tavern, or he may get a 
phone number from a buddy who has assured him it will be 



"easy" 



A sexual experience with such girls has nothing to do 
with love or affection. It is purely a matter-of-fact measure 
to obtain physical satisfaction. The boy's interest is cen 
tered on his own pleasure and he couldn't care less about 
the girl's feelings, or if indeed, she has any feelings at all. 
He thinks of a girl as something to be used, then cast aside. 
Some young men who grow impatient with the chase de 
cide it is easier to go to a house of prostitution. They ra 
tionalize that it is more convenient to pay a fee and avoid 
the trouble of putting on a sales pitch. Buying sex is also 
insurance against rejection. 

Yet when these same young men marry, they are ex 
pected to regard sexual relations as an expression of love, 
something beautiful and tender. They are expected to be 
considerate, loving, and patient. This is a tall order. At 
titudes and patterns established in childhood and adoles 
cence are sometimes impossible to discard. A young man 
who had been married only a few weeks wrote me this letter: 



50 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

"My wife and I are fighting about of all things bed 
room wallpaper. This may sound strange to you, but there 
is a great deal more involved than she realizes. Maybe you 
can help. WeVe been married less than two months and 
are veiy much in love. I am twenty-two Charlotte is 
twenty. 

"We rented this old apartment which is cozy, but it 
needs fixing up. Right now we're selecting wallpaper. 
Charlotte wants a plain stripe in our bedroom, but I must 
have a flowered design. 

"You'll probably think Fm a loon, but I need help so 
I'll tell you the whole truth. Before I met Charlotte I had 
a girl friend I used to see for sex purposes only. She was 
older than I, and divorced. I never treated her as a date- 
she was just someone I went to see when I felt the urge. 
This girl was quiet, uneducated and dull, but sexually she 
was terrific. She was the first girl I had successfully gone 
all the way with and I formed quite a strong attachment 
to her. She lived in a cheap apartment, with flowered 
wallpaper. 

"The first three nights of our honeymoon Charlotte and 
I slept in a hotel room that had painted walls. I had a 
terrible time. As soon as we got to our own little apart 
ment with flowered wallpaper in the bedroom, everything 
was fine. Now Charlotte wants to change the bedroom 
paper to a stripe. What can I do? I can't tell her the truth. 
She wouldn't understand. Please rush your advice, General 
Delivery. I can't take a chance on getting your letter at 

h me - Mr. E.J.K." 

I told the young man to insist that his wife let him have 
his way. I even suggested dialogue: 

"Honey, you can decorate the rest of the place any way 
you like, but please let me win this one. I may be goofy, 
but I sleep better in a bedroom that has flowered wall 
paper." 



HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 51 

Weeks later I received a note from the young man. It 
was written on flowered wallpaper. He scribbled in crayon: 

"Dear Ann Landers: Thank you more than words can 
CXpreSS - E.J.K." 

Unfulfilled sexual desires can produce sharp personality 
changes. The tension created by frustration can make a 
man unpleasant and vengeful. He may get even with his 
wife by being tight with money, or mean to her mother, 
or he may belittle her before guests the next evening. The 
woman who is left dangling sexually may strike back at 
her husband by being extravagant with money or hyper 
critical of his manners. 

Couples who find no satisfaction in the bedroom are in 
clined to fight in the living room, on the back porch, in 
the kitchen and in other people's homes as well. 

Generally speaking, a man who has a satisfactory physi 
cal relationship with his wife will not slip his collar and 
seek extra-marital affairs. There are exceptions, however, 
and I hear from thousands of wives who are married to 
them. A woman from Temple, Texas, put it this way: 

"I have made it a rule never to refuse my husband no 
matter how tired I am. He says I satisfy him completely 
and that he loves me more today than when we married 
twenty years ago. Yet every few weeks he comes home 
with lipstick on his shirt, and loaded. I know he's been 
with another woman. I can't understand it." 

The sad truth is that some men have an immature ap 
proach to sex and it is beyond the power of faithful, loving 
wives to change them. Sexual promiscuity is often a symp 
tom of competitiveness and feelings of inferiority. Some 
men view the number of conquered females in the same 
light as a bowler who strives to knock down as many pins 



52 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

as possible. He registers the magic number on an emotional 
Scoreboard. Sex, to him, is an ego-boosting game. Psychia 
trists tell us that such "lady-lovers" are not lovers of ladies 
at all. On the contrary, they have a low regard for women 
and the conquest of a woman is their way of destroying 
"the enemy." 

Then there is the other Don Juan type who wanders 
from bedroom to bedroom because he is unsure of his 
masculinity. He keeps trying to prove to himself that he is 
capable as well as desirable, by seducing as many women 
as possible. 

Another type of rover boy is the husband whose early 
sex education was acquired in the back alley. He thinks of 
sex as vulgar and dirty and cannot get complete satisfac 
tion from his wife who is clean and decent. A legitimate 
sex object inhibits him because he feels he is defiling a 
good woman. He can react freely and without inhibition 
only with a tramp type. 

Professional help is the only hope for these sick men, 
and it is often difficult, if not impossible, to get them to 
seek the help they need since they see nothing wrong in 
their behavior. They rationalize their promiscuity by in 
sisting that men are polygamous by nature. To them fidel 
ity is "old fashioned/' 

Sexual activity requires energy. A man who works 14 
hours a day will have less sex drive than the one who bursts 
into the house every evening at 5:40 p.m. Business pressures 
can rob a man of his vitality and reduce his sexual appetite. 
In every normal life there are bound to be periods of anxiety, 
tension, and overwork; a wife must expect this and under 
stand it. But the man who becomes a slave to his business 
and works so hard and long that there is no energy left for 
loving his wife makes a bad bargain. Often he works and 
worries himself into an early grave and his wife enjoys the 



HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 53 

fruits of his labors and the sexual companionship he denied 
her with a second husband. 

Then, too, the wife who has several small children to 
police, a large home to clean, plus the laundry and cooking 
to do, cannot be expected to make like Cleopatra six 
nights a week. But when a wife finds herself saying "no" 
more often than "y es >" s ^ e>< i better get smart and hire 
some help, or let the waxing and polishing go. There are 
no medals for the girl with the antiseptic cupboards and 
the gleaming floors if she falls into bed exhausted every 
night. The man with the "too tired 7 ' wife is easy prey for 
a bouncy, energetic, unattached female and the world is 
full of them. 

The old-fashioned concept that the male should be the 
aggressor and the female the shrinking violet is preposter 
ous. In successful marital relations both should play a posi 
tive role. Women who have led sheltered lives are some 
times reluctant to display enthusiasm for sex. They fear 
their husbands may think they are "cheap" or unladylike. 

Sexual appetites vary. A race horse teamed with a plow 
horse is bound to have problems. When such troubles 
arise, the only solution is to adapt and adjust. This takes 
maturity, patience, and understanding. 

The woman who repeatedly withholds herself from her 
husband by manufacturing a fake illness can seriously 
damage her marriage. But if a woman is truly ill, or if she 
is honestly fatigued at the end of a hectic day, she should 
fed free to say no without apology or guilt. Love-making is 
a privilege, not a duty. A sense of mutuality should exist if 
we are to rise above the animal level. 

Both men and women have written to ask when sexual 
activity in marriage should cease. Physicians and clergymen 
agree there is no time limit on the expression of physical 
love. As we enter the twilight of our lives, we have less 



54 HOW IMPORTANT IS SEX IN MARRIAGE? 

vigor and energy. But medical histories record sexual ac 
tivities between couples in their seventies and eighties. 
And some women have written to say they enjoy sex more 
after menopause because the fear of pregnancy is no longer 
present. 

A wholesome sexual relationship permits the expression 
of a variety of moods. Understanding and being able to 
adjust to moods matures a relationship. It is during these 
intimate moments that we are most nearly ourselves. 

Each of us knows the need to overcome his separateness 
"to leave the prison of his aloneness." The sexual act, 
when it is an expression of unselfish love, helps us to sur 
mount our feelings of isolation and separateness. Two be 
come one. The perfect love experience is more than just a 
physical union. It is a spiritual and mental union as well. 
For those very special moments, no one else exists in all 
the world. It is a way of saying "To me, you are the most 
important person in the universe." 

The poets say perfect physical love is man's closest link 
to heaven. But perfect physical love is not the private 
property of the poets, or the rich, or the wise. It belongs 
to anyone who knows how to love and how to give. 



i 



FIVE 



How to stay warrica 



"All happy families are alike but an unhappy family 
is unhappy after its own fashion." 

Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 



A SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE is not a gift, it is an achieve 
ment. Only a fool assumes that marriage is a prize 
to be won and then locked in a glass showcase. 

Happiness in marriage does not fly in on angels' wings. 
It is neither endless bliss nor prolonged excitement; emo 
tions of such intensity cannot be sustained. The physical 
and emotional machinery of man is not geared for per 
petual ecstasy. Sensual pleasures have the fleeting bril 
liance of a comet; a happy marriage has the tranquillity of 
a lovely sunset. 

A good marriage is more than the absence of war. It is a 
positive, dynamic, growing thing. It is the mature response 
to obligations. It is the ability to compromise, to give and 

55 



56 HOW TO STAY MARRIED 

take, and to share. All who marry hope it will be perma 
nent, but one marriage out of every three in America 
winds up in the divorce courts. These statistics suggest 
that a great many people are unable to tolerate the mate 
they choose, much less attain a reasonable degree of con 
tentment 

A poor relationship between a man and wife is a peculiar 
kind of agony, but the most unfortunate victims are their 
children. Sociological studies indicate that hostile, un- 
motivated and seriously disturbed children are almost al 
ways products of separated, divorced, or warring parents. 
Solid marriages produce children who have feelings of 
security and a sense of self-esteem. Unhappy marriages pro 
duce threatened, unstable youngsters, ill-equipped to be suc 
cessful husbands or wives. And so the vicious chain con 
tinues. Discontented and maladjusted adults pass on to 
their children these little-understood feelings of insecurity 
and rootlessness. Only with outside help are they able to 
gain insight into their problems and give their children the 
love and affection they were denied in their earlier years. 

I do not expect that thousands of married couples (or 
even one) will rush to overhaul their marriages as a result of 
reading this chapter. I do hope, however, to plant a 
thought which may help you to keep your marriage to 
gether and put it in perspective. I am told by readers that 
one of the most useful functions of my column is to re 
duce the awesome dimensions of personal problems by 
offering a comparison with the heartache in the house next 
door. And often readers find that the problem isn't next 
door at all. It's their very own, or close enough so that the 
advice fits. 

An encouraging attribute of the human animal is his 
potential for development. All of us can be better than 
we are and the first step in self-improvement is to recognize 
the need for change. 



HOW TO STAY MARRIED 57 

Keep the lines of communication open 

"Dear Ann Landers: My husband doesn't talk to me. 
He just sits there night after night reading the newspaper 
or looking at TV. When I ask him a question, he grunts 
'un-unh' or 'uh-huh.' Sometimes he doesn't even grunt. 
All he really needs is a housekeeper and somebody to 
sleep with him when he feels like it. He can buy both. 
There are times when I wonder why he got married." 

Men write with the same complaint, but their letters are 
less numerous. Here is an excerpt from a Windsor, Ontario, 
reader: 

"My wife doesn't talk to me unless she has a beef 
against my family or a complaint about the kids or me. 
We haven't had a pleasant conversation in years. When 
we were going together, the evenings were never long 
enough. We never got it all said. What happened anyway?" 

The ability to talk things over is the adhesive agent that 
cements marriages. The husband and wife who can tell it to 
each other are not likely to tell it to the judge. Incompati 
bility is a vague word at best. Usually it is another way of 
saying "We couldn't talk." 

The spoken word is only one means of communication. 
A wink can be eloquent. A raised eyebrow, a smile, a frown, 
a pat; they all say something. A great deal has been written 
and spoken about woman's intuition. While I concede that 
this may be one of her greatest assets, I am certain some of 
the magic called intuition is simply the intimate knowl 
edge of a familiar face. Individuals who are observant and 
able to read subtle facial expressions can learn a great deal 
without exchanging a word. 

Problem areas in marriage are best resolved, however, by 
the spoken word, and I don't mean verbal assault and bat 
tery. There can be useful, honorableeven noblebattles 
in marriage. And there can be vicious, destructive fighting. 



58 HOW TO STAY MARRIED 

All married couples should learn the art of noble battle as 
they learn the art of making love. It is forthright but never 
cruel; it is objective, honest, and confined to the problem 
under discussion. Most arguments get out of hand because 
one or both parties depart from the central issue. The wife 
may drag in something from left field in an effort to wound 
her husband or to cover up the weakness of her own posi 
tion. 

Good battle is healthy. It clears the air. It allows the 
other person to know what you are thinking and it brings 
to marriage the principle of an equal partnership. When a 
woman writes "Pm afraid to open my mouth. He can't 
take criticism without flying into a rage," I know there is no 
communication between the couple and that the poor wife 
is married to a tyrant. 

Meaningless chatter may be an outlet, but it is not com 
munication. Witness this complaint: 

"My wife's family is a gabby bunch. They talk con 
stantly. Sometimes they don't make much sense, but they 
sure do manage to keep the words going back and forth. 
My family is quiet. I was brought up not to say anything 
unless I could improve on silence. My wife doesn't under 
stand this." 

The woman who marries a no-talk type ("Yup" is a 
whole speech) sees it another way. One suburban New 
York wife wrote: 

"After three hours of not saying one solitary word, I 
handed Ralph the laundry list and said, Tlease read this 
to me. I just want to hear your voice/ " 

The quality of the conversation is what counts, however, 
and not the quantity. Some couples talk easily about poli 
tics, the neighbors, current books, or assorted trivia. This is 



HOW TO STAY MARRIED 59 

useful, but the talking that builds a marriage and keeps it in 
good repair is the honest, below the surface kind. Conversa 
tions that advance real understanding deal with personal 
feelings. The man and wife who can articulate ideas and 
feelings which they would not express to anyone else usu 
ally have a good marriage. 

In every family there are some subjects which should be 
avoided. A remark critical of a man's mother, sister, or 
brother can, in some circumstances, set off a small war. The 
wise wife learns to side-step certain sensitive subjects. 

Equally explosive are a husband's frequent references to 
a former sweetheart. A Louisville woman wrote: 

"I never thought I could do such a thing, but when 
Bill began to rave for the fiftieth time about his old girl 
friend's fantastic shape, I hit him with the frying pan." 

Here are some choice phrases guaranteed to irritate 

"I'm going to tell you something for your own good/' 

"I've put off mentioning this because I know how sensi 
tive you are/' 

"I don't like to make comparisons, dear, but my brother 
Sam would have done it this way/' 

"I was hoping you'd learn this yourself, but since you 
haven't I'll have to teach you/' 

"You aren't going to like what I am about to say, but 
please pay me the courtesy of hearing me out." 

Learning the phrases and subjects to avoid is part of the 
diplomacy of marriage. And learning to tolerate less-than- 
fascinating conversation is part of marriage, too. A husband 
should be able to talk to his wife about business problems 
(and even brag a little if he wants to) without fearing that 
she'll yawn in his face. A wife should be able to discuss the 
events of the day without being made to feel that she is 
boring her husband to death. 



60 HOW TO STAY MARRIED 

Every married couple should discuss their children and 
decide together what is best for them. One of the chief 
reasons many children are able to drive a wedge between 
parents (thus, playing one off against the other) is because 
Mom doesn't know where Dad stands and Dad isn't aware 
that Mom has already said no. To present a united front, 
parents must keep in close communication and decide 
family policy in regard to hours, car privileges, and so on. 
This prevents missed signals, wrangling and misunderstand 
ing. 

The united front family insists on loyalty. Clearly, a man 
and wife should not bicker, quarrel, or criticize one another 
in the presence of others. Letters from both men and 
women underline the importance of self-discipline. A wife 
from Kansas City wrote: 

"He's sweet as pie until we get out in company. It's 
almost as if he waits for an audience so he can belittle my 
cooking or make cracks about my weight." 

A Honolulu husband said: 

"My wife makes me feel like two cents whenever her 
family is around. She keeps saying in front of her relatives 
that someday she hopes to have a few of the nice things 
her sisters have. Their husbands all make big money and 
she doesn't let me forget it." 

Every social circle has at least one couple notorious for 
"fighting it out in public." The husband or wife who at 
tempts to humiliate his mate only succeeds in working up 
sympathy for the victim and an active dislike for himself. 
Some couples are dropped by their friends because their 
dreary and incessant arguing makes others uncomfortable. 

The summary, then, is this: Accept the fact that there is 
bound to be conflict in every marriage. Don't be ashamed 
when you can't agree on everything. It is foolish to pretend 



HOW TO STAY MARRIED 6l 

conflict doesn't exist. A marriage where there is total agree 
ment needs looking into. Someone is not being honest 
about his feelings. Constructive, honest talking is essential 
to a good marriage. If something is on your mind, don't 
just sit there and build an ulcer. Don't let tensions multiply. 
Work them out as they come along. Say something. But 
remember to say it privately. And finally never go to bed 
mad. 

Get outside help 

Often a visit with an objective third party is precisely 
what is needed to get a derailed marriage back on the track. 
I discourage married couples from taking their problems to 
relatives. In special instances it may work out, but as a 
general rule the less said to relatives about family problems, 
the better. 

Marriage counseling services are available in almost every 
city. Readers who live in small towns should contact the 
Family Service Bureau or the Y.M.C.A. in the nearest 
metropolitan city and learn of the available facilities. 

The clergyman is another excellent source of help. A 
reader from Cleveland wrote: 

"Thank you for sending me to my minister. He has 
opened doors for me that I never knew existed. What a 
wonderful person he is, Ann! And to think he has been 
available all these years and I didn't even know it." 

And remember, you can always write to Ann Landers. 

Marriage and money problems 

Comparatively few readers write to me about money 
problems. Since ours is considered a materialistic society, 
this is surprising to me, at least. 



62 HOW TO STAY MARRIED 

Women who write about money usually complain about 
stingy husbands. The following letter is perhaps extreme, 
but it makes the point: 

"What do you think about a husband who keeps cross 
ing things off the grocery list because he says they aren't 
necessary? He says Tou don't need to buy laundry bleach. 
Clothes don't have to be snow white. The kids don't need 
sweet cookies. Let 'em eat crackers. Why buy shampoo 
when you can wash your hair with a bar of soap? Floors 
don't need to be waxed. Just keep 'em clean. Furniture 
polish is a waste of money. Rub a little harder.' We aren't 
rich people, but we can afford some of the extras in life. 
It bums me up that he is so tight with me while he spends 
money on hunting and fishing equipment, drinks for the 
boys and card playing. I get no allowance. He handles all 
the money. I'll have to shake four cents out of the baby's 
bank to mail this letter. Please tell me what to do. I'm fed 
up to here." 

I tell wives who do write about this problem that unless a 
woman is addle-brained or alcoholic, she should be able to 
handle the grocery money without supervision. It is de 
grading to be followed around in a store and told what to 
buy. Most wives do a remarkable job of stretching the pay 
check. I doubt that their husbands could do as well. 

As a matter of self respect every wife, if her husband is 
employed, should have an allowance for herself. She should 
be free to spend a few dollars a week as she pleases and be 
accountable to no one. 

Policies regarding family finances are best ironed out be 
fore marriage. It should be decided in advance who is to 
handle the money and pay the bills. In some marriages the 
husband is better qualified. Often, however, it is the wife. 
A man from Atlanta told me: 



HOW TO STAY MARRIED 63 

"We were broke and in debt the first two years of our 
marriage. I was handling the money and I couldn't make 
ends meet. My wife asked for a chance to take over. I 
figured she couldn't do much worse than I had done, and 
maybe she could do better. In less than a year she had us 
out of debt and she had $250 put away in the bank. She 
certainly surprised me. I take my hat off to her." 

The wife who is in charge of the family purse strings 
should see to it that her husband has enough spending 
money. If s rough for a man to have to ask his wife for 
cigarette change or "a couple of dollars to buy gas for the 
car." The husband who turns his pay check over to his wife 
should get money to cover his daily expenses, and he should 
not be expected to account for every dime. 

If both husband and wife are working, I recommend that 
the checks be pooled and the incomes treated as one. A 
good marriage should be a partnership spiritual, moral, 
physical, and financial. There should be no "mine" and 
"thine"-only "ours." 

Accept the realities of marriage 

To improve any situation we must all start here and now 
with what we are and with the resources at our command. 
There is no turning back the clock or undoing what has 
been done, unless you are a magician, in which case this 
chapter is not for you. 

Most married people, if they are honest, will admit that 
marriage isn't all they had hoped it would be. No union 
between earthly creatures can possibly measure up to the 
florid promises of the movies, love novels, and advertise 
ments for cedar chests. Married life as we live it is certain 
to come off second best when compared with our popular 
romantic fantasies. Somerset Maugham summed it up 



64 HOW TO STAY MARRIED 

neatly: "American wives expect to find in their husbands a 
perfection English women only hope to find in their 
butlers/' 

It is essential, then, if we are to enjoy a mature rela 
tionship, to accept the realities of married life. It has been 
said that rose-colored glasses do not come in bifocals be 
cause nobody reads the small print in dreams. Examine the 
small print in the marriage contract; perhaps it will help you 
to put your own marriage in its proper perspective. 

America has the largest middle class in the world. The 
very rich and the very poor are a small percentage of this 
country's population. Less than one-tenth of one per cent 
of American males have an annual income of $10,000 a year 
or more. 

The picture of the average American woman as an over- 
privileged, pampered house cat is preposterous. It is not the 
Junior League or the yacht club that consumes the average 
woman's time and energy. It's a plugged sink, Billy's 
measles, patching clothes, marketing, cooking, washing 
and ironing, stretching an inadequate pay check and drag 
ging her husband away from the TV set so he'll pay a little 
more attention to her. 

The following letter from Houston tells the story for 
thousands of women: 

"The kids are in bed, the dishes are stacked in the sink 
and there's plenty of mending I could do, but Fm going 
to let everything sit. Tonight I'm keeping a promise I 
made to myself a year ago. I'm going to write to Ann 
Landers. 

"Jack and I have been married sixteen years. He had 
a good education and I always told myself he'd make the 
grade. Well, he never hasquite. The pay check barely 
covers the necessities. Our five kids, God bless them, are 
healthy and smart, but they keep me on the brink of 
exhaustion. 



HOW TO STAY MARRIED 6j 

"If Jack takes me to a movie every couple of weeks, it's 
a big deal. He's a swell guy, and I do love him, but this 
isn't exactly what I expected out of life. A meal in a res 
taurant would be like a dream come true. Fm yearning 
for just a little bit of real fur on a suit. Tell me, Ann, is 
this a life? 

Jane" 
The reply: 

"You bet it's a life, Jane, and a darned good one. Did 
you know that people can get just as exhausted from bore 
dom as from overwork? And sirloin in a restaurant can 
begin to taste like sawdust after a while, too. 

"I've had stacks of letters from women with open charge 
accounts asking what to do with their lives. And many 
write about problems that resulted from too much leisure. 
They sought escape from boredom through alcohol and 
extra-marital affairs. 

"Sure you get fed up, everybody does, but don't lose 
your perspective. You've got the things that count. Pity 
the poor millionaire. He'll never know the thrill of paying 
that final installment." 

It is vital to your mental and physical health that you 
learn to accept your mate as he is. If s a foolish mistake to 
figure that after marriage you will make him (or her) over 
to suit your specifications. By the time a man or woman is 
of marriageable age, the behavior patterns are set. 

This is not to say there will be no personality changes, 
no emotional or intellectual development. Maturity should 
come with the passing years. As our horizons broaden, we 
should become less petty, more patient and understanding. 
The man at forty-four is not what he was at twenty-four. 
The woman at thirty-eight has grown beyond the notion 
that the most important goal in life was the presidency of 
her sorority. 

A wise husband or wife can subtly influence his mate 
and, by example, demonstrate that some approaches to life 



66 HOW TO STAY MARRIED 

work better than others. But it won't be achieved by at 
tempting to impose ideas on an unwilling subject or by 
nagging criticism. 

Since marriage is the most intimate and most demanding 
of all adult relationships, conflict is inevitable. A woman 
meets a crisis like a woman. She's likely to weep when she's 
frustrated or angry. A man is more apt to raise his voice and 
spout forth a stream of verbal complaints or he may clap 
on his hat and leave the house for a few hours. Try to re 
member to attack the problem and not each other. 

Personal habits can be a source of real trouble. It is my 
opinion (but many readers have disagreed with me) that 
a man is neat or he is not neat when you marry him, de 
pending on the training he received from his mother. The 
next letter is typical of a complaint which has come to me 
from every state in the union, plus Panama, Puerto Rico, 
Canada, Nassau and Scotland. 

"My husband thinks you are God's gift to the American 
husband. Me I would like to wring your neck. Several 
months ago you said a wife should iron the bed sheets if 
her husband likes them that way, so I started to iron the 
bed sheets on your say so. That controversy led to whether 
a woman should iron her husband's shorts. You said 'if a 
husband wants his shorts ironed then iron 'em.' So my 
big slob, who never knew that shorts could be ironed, 
showed me the column and said 'Ann thinks you should 
iron my shorts from now on.' 

"I was pretty burned up; in fact I even considered send 
ing you a bundle of my husband's shorts to iron, but I de 
cided to be a good sport and go along with it. Now you 
come along with the insane advice that a wife should pick 
up after her husband. If you can tell me why an able- 
bodied man should get this kind of service, I'll do as you 
say and never mention it again. 

Livid Viv" 



HOW TO STAY MARRIED 67 

I told Livid Viv (and hundreds of other women who 
bombarded me with invective) that if a woman marries a 
man who leaves his pajamas on the floor, his ties on the 
doorknob, and his shorts wherever he happens to drop 
them, she should pick up after him and say nothing. He 
was brought up that way and no amount of nagging is 
likely to change him. Pick up after him not for his sake, 
but for yours. The time involved can't possibly amount to 
more than ten minutes a day. Does it make sense to fuss 
and fume over something so insignificant? Constant "re 
minding" makes you a nag and you usually wind up pick 
ing up after him anyway. Then everybody's mad. It's not 
worth it. 

Perfection is achieved only when one can be in complete 
control of one's self at all times. This means operating on 
an even keel, with no sharp peaks and valleys, no moods, 
no loss of temper, no display of vanity, anxiety, weakness, 
indecision or despair. If such a person exists, I would like 
to have him dipped in bronze and put on display in the 
Smithsonian Institution. 

Physical condition has an important bearing on behavior. 
A woman does not feel the same every day of the month. 
Neither does a man. The endocrine system, which is the 
glandular network regulating our energy output, has a di 
rect effect on disposition and personality. All of us operate 
in cycles. Even in the course of a single day energy peaks 
vary. The man who could go bear hunting with a switch at 
eight in the morning may fold like an accordion 12 hours 
later. His wife may not come alive until noon. 

Timing is crucial. The tired husband is likely to be ir 
ritable and negative. The moment he walks into the house 
is not the appropriate time to shove the bills in his face 
and complain about the children. The woman who has 



68 HOW TO STAY MARRIED 

had a particularly trying day is not likely to be fit as a fiddle 
and ready for love. 

In accepting the realities of marriage, try to see the hu 
mor in situations which may seem deadly serious at the mo 
ment. Laughter offers a healthy release from tension and 
anxiety. It is an ideal device to head off a big argument or 
to end a small one. The husband who wrote that his wife 
burns him up because she squeezes the toothpaste tube 
from the middle had no sense of humor, and less imagina 
tion. (Being a middle-squeezer myself I know it's a habit 
which was acquired early.) The man who is so exacting 
that he can't tolerate a tube squeezed from the middle 
should develop a sense of humor for the sake of his blood 
pressure. 

Finally 

Think of your marriage in terms of what's right with it 
rather than what's wrong with it. If you can look at a bottle 
and say "it's half full" rather than "it's half empty" your 
approach is positive, and this philosophy will help make a 
marriage work. Think in terms of "we" and "us" rather 
than "me" and "I." 

Don't envy your neighbor because his or her marriage 
may look more exciting or glamourous. You never know 
what's going on behind closed doors and drawn drapes. 
They may be envying you. The only home life about which 
you will ever know the whole truth is your own. Broaden 
your perspective and measure the good aspects of your 
marriage against the bad. Then, when the sledding gets a 
little bumpy (and you can be sure it will), remember that 
wonderful old Yiddish adage "Ahless in ainem msh-taw 
bah Jcainem," which means in any language "Everything in 
one person nobody's got it." 



SIX 

T" 



Must we outlaw the in-law? 



<r Wherefore shall a man leave his father 

and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they 

shall be two in one flesh/* Genesis 2:24 




I HE ONLY SURE WAY to avoid in-law trouble," said a 
latter-day wit, "is to marry an orphan." 

How serious is the in-law problem? Has it been exag 
gerated? Has the American mother-in-law earned her black 
eye or is she the Innocent victim of gag-writers? 

My mail provides daily evidence that the in-law problem 
is no myth. Experts say in-laws figure in three out of every 
five divorces. Is it any wonder the cry "outlaw the in-law" 
is heard throughout the land! 

Our social critics say the American matriarchy has 
shunted Dad so far into the background that he isn't even 
important enough to make trouble. This may be more than 

69 



70 MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 

a lame joke. The evidence I've seen indicates that the 
mother-in-law is at least 50 times as troublesome as the 
father-in-law. And in most cases the problem is the hus 
band's mother. 

When the wife's mother is the central cause for marital 
discord, it presents an unusually trying problem for the 
husband. The mama-dominated wife never gets over feeling 
like a naughty child when she goes against her mother's 
wishes, or heaven forbid, when she puts her husband first. 

The most troublesome relative, after the mother-in-law 
(his or hers) is the sister-in-law (usually his sister). The 
brother-in-law is close on her heels and the father-in-law 
comes straggling in a poor fourth. 

An Indiana attorney wrote: 

"IVe been practicing law for over 15 years and have 
handled hundreds of divorce cases. I do not approve of 
divorce and I try to effect a reconciliation whenever pos 
sible. It is my opinion that two-thirds of all divorces can 
be traced directly to in-law trouble. Not only are parents 
at fault, but grandparents, brothers, sisters and even shirt- 
tail relatives are often responsible for broken marriages. 

"If in-laws would make it their business to mind their 
own business, the divorce courts would not be so crowded." 

The threadbare phrase "I'm marrying him (or her), not 
the whole family/' is unrealistic. In rare instances it is 
possible to steer clear of all relatives. But generally, even if 
physical separation is accomplished, it is difficult to sever 
the emotional bonds. Family ties are like roots, and roots 
lie buried beneath the surface. 

The mother who wont let go of her son 

One of the singular aspects of the mother-in-law prob 
lem is that wives thousands of miles apart use almost 



MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 7! 

identical language to describe it. The letter that follows 
came from a small town in Connecticut. It might have 
come from any one of hundreds of cities where my column 
appears. 

"My mother-in-law's interference is ruining my mar 
riage. She bosses my husband as if he were a child. When 
he takes her side, I want to walk out of the house and 
never come back. I don't know how much longer I can 
take it." 

This, of course, is the way the daughter-in-law sees it, 
and she could be justified. It may be ? however, that she is 
too sensitive or overly critical. I have suggested to thou 
sands of couples who are plagued with in-law troubles that 
they visit a marriage counselor or a clergyman and verbalize 
their feelings. An unbiased third party, trained in handling 
family problems, may give them both a fresh look at the 
other side. 

The daughter-in-law is often unaware of the problems of 
a mother of three or four adult children who suddenly finds 
herself with an empty nest For the past twenty years she 
has been busy with her children and then, one by one, they 
leave her. Her interests are frequently limited to a club or 
church group. Life becomes frighteningly empty and sterile. 
She has nothing important or demanding to occupy her 
time and energy, so she turns to "helping" her newly-mar 
ried children. She means well, but a young bride who wants 
to work things out in her own way may consider it med 
dling. 

When mother-in-law offers suggestions to Betty on what 
to do about Ted's cold (after all, who knows better than a 
bo/s mother?) Betty interprets it as Cutting in/' A mar 
riage counselor or a clergyman can point out that a mother's 
interest in her son is normal and that a mother-in-law can 



J2 MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 

be useful to a daughter-in-law who is willing to accept 
gracefully a few well-intentioned suggestions. 

This next letter from Virginia illustrates a problem which 
is more complex because it involves two gravely neurotic 
people a mother and her son: 

"My mother-in-law is making a nervous wreck out of 
me. She lives in an apartment about two miles from us 
(the closest one she could find) and my husband is her 
sole means of support. Her medicine bills and doctors cost 
us a fortune. She takes pills to go to sleep, to wake up, to 
calm her nerves, balance her thyroid, slow up her breath 
ing and pep up her blood. Three times last week she 
phoned us in the middle of the night to say she was 
dying. My husband dragged himself out of bed and 
rushed to her bedside. She's been pulling this same stunt 
for ten years. The doctors can find nothing organically 
wrong with her. She'll probably bury me. Fve tried to tell 
my husband she is a clever woman who fakes illness to get 
attention. He says she is his mother and whatever she 
wants him to do, he will do whether it makes sense or 
not. Can you suggest a course of action for me? 

Fed to the Teeth" 

The wife who is trapped in such a situation has a rough 
life. Her best hope is to persuade her husband to seek 
psychiatric treatment so that one day he may detach him 
self from his domineering and demanding mother. A grown 
man who says, "Whatever my mother wants me to do I will 
do whether it makes sense or not" concedes that he is operat 
ing at an infantile level. 

If the mother-in-law is unbearably punishing, I advise 
the wife to tell Junior to go live with Mama until he grows 
up, and I suggest that she remind him to send the support 
checks in the mail. 

The most difficult of all the mother-in-law problems in- 



MUST WE OXTTLAW THE IN-LAW? 73 

volves the only son of a widowed or divorced woman. 
Young men who grow up with no male influence in the 
home are often poor marriage risks. There are exceptions, 
of course, but the evidence is heavily weighted on the nega 
tive side. 

Some months ago, I received the following letter from a 
North Carolina bride: 

"I am writing this letter on my wedding night. My 
groom and I were married this afternoon in a beautiful 
church ceremony. We left the hotel reception at about 
eight-thirty in the evening and drove to this lovely little 
resort hotel. The first thing my husband did when we 
arrived here was telephone his mother. They talked for 
thirty minutes and he spent most of the time comforting 
her and trying to get her to stop crying. After the con 
versation he flopped down on the bed, bawled for ten 
minutes, cracked open a pint of bourbon, drank it and 
passed out." 

Her signature, several pages later, was "Unmarried Wife." 
If you think such neurotic relationships exist only be 
tween mother and son, please read the next letter. This 
problem occurs less frequently. But it does happen. 

"Our son went steady with a lovely girl for two years. 
The girl's father died when she was thirteen and she and 
her mother were like sisters. We knew they were close, 
but we didn't realize they were crazy. We should have 
known something was wrong when the mother moved to 
the college town and took a selling job to be near her 
daughter. After graduation B and J had a nice wedding. 
On the wedding night J complained of a sick headache. 
The next day she said her eyes hurt That night her back 
ached. The next morning she scribbled a note saying she 
couldn't bear to think of her mother alone so she had 
taken the bus home. What can our son do? 

Shocked Parents" 



74 MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 

Again, psychiatric help is the only solution. But too 
often, as I told this woman, professional help is rejected. 
The sick ones defend their behavior with such fancy (and 
even admirable) labels as "mother love/* "family devotion" 
and "filial loyalty/' When I advised a New York reader to 
get outside help before his mother's apron strings throttled 
his marriage, he replied: 

'There is nothing wrong with me, Ann Landers. You 
are the one who needs professional help. My wife is 
twenty-eight years old. She has her whole life before her. 
My mother is sixty-four. I shall continue to spend every 
January in Florida with my mother as long as she lives. 
My wife belongs home with the children/' 

Competition between the generations 

Some women dislike their mothers-in-law even before 
they meet and it's the husband's fault. He sometimes paints 
such glowing pictures of "dear old mom" that he gives the 
girl an inferiority complex, and plants a premature dislike 
for this paragon in-law. 

Many mother-in-law problems are bound up in some way 
with food, perhaps because food is an ancient symbol for 
love. It may be the unconscious motivation for two women 
who attempt to battle it out in the kitchen. 

These complaints tell the story: "My husband's mother 
phones him at work and asks him to stop by her house for 
his favorite dish meatballs and cabbage." Or, "My mother- 
in-law insists on bringing matzo-ball soup over here be 
cause she knows Lou loves it, and I can't make it as well as 
she can." A woman who had been married seven years 
wrote, "My mother-in-law comes over every Wednesday 
and takes over my kitchen. She likes to prepare special 
Italian dishes for her son. I've asked her for recipes dozens 



MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 75 

of times, but she claims she never measures anything." 
I tell these wives they can only win by cooperating. If 
a mother-in-law wants to prepare special dishes and bring 
them over fine. If she wants to come to the house once a 
week and cook a meal, what's wrong with that? Many 
women are happy to pay a caterer a good price to do the 
same thing. If a mother-in-law finds pleasure in doing these 
things for her son, why fly into a rage? The smart wife who 
permits her mother-in-law the satisfaction of mixing batter 
in her kitchen now and then often insures that her mother- 
in-law will not mix in more vital matters. 

When I was a bride of twenty-one, my husband let me 
know that he loved eggplant Romanian style, the way his 
mother made it. On my first trip to Detroit, some months 
later, I asked my mother-in-law to show me how to prepare 
the dish. Step number one was burning the vegetable over 
the open flame on a gas stove. Step number two add a raw 
onion and chop the eggplant and onion together for twenty 
minutes. I knew then and there I would never make the 
grade because I loathe chopping onions. After many failures 
with this miserable vegetable I decided to let my mother- 
in-law have the title of Eggplant Queen. Whenever my 
husband goes to Detroit, he stops at his mother's to in 
dulge in a huge bowl" of Romanian eggplant. She enjoys 
every tear shed over that wooden chopping bowl, he gets 
eggplant up to his ears, and everybody's happy. 

Newlyweds should live alone 

Newlyweds will be happier in a one-room apartment, 
even if it's under a bowling alley, than in a mansion which 
belongs to parents. Every young couple should be free to 
settle its differences privately, outside the hearing range of 
relatives. They should have a place of their own in which 



76 MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 

to make the transition from cloud nine to down-to-earth 
living. 

No two women make a bed or peel a potato exactly the 
same way. The mother-in-law may make a better apple pie, 
but even if it isn't better, her son will probably think it is 
because he grew up on it. Because of the natural competi 
tion between a man's wife and his mother, stage settings for 
conflict should be kept to a minimum. Living under one 
roof is bound to produce a long list of small irritations. And 
an accumulation of irritations can add up to an atomic ex 
plosion after several months. 

Newlyweds often have difficulty adjusting sexually. In- 
laws in an adjoining bedroom can complicate the prob 
lem. Young marrieds are frequently shy and the knowledge 
that parents are close by can be horribly inhibiting. 

One young bride wrote from Salt Lake City: 

"We moved into my mother-in-law's home because she 
begged us to. She said she would be lonely by herself in 
that big house, and explained that it would give us a 
chance to save some money until Jack got on his feet. 
After the first week I knew it was a foolish move. Our 
sex life was awful. His mother always managed to knock 
on our door at the wrong time/' 

Who should come first, the wife or the husband's mother? 

If I could hand every newly married couple a framed 
motto as a wedding gift, it would say this: "Your first 
allegiance is to each other. Let no man or woman come be 
tween you/' No, I am not suggesting that the parents of 
newly married couples should join the foreign legion. My 
motto, however, would spare millions of young people the 
agony of split loyalties. 

The man who is unwilling to put his wife before his 



MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? JJ 

mother is not sufficiently mature for marriage. The woman 
who is unable to put her husband before her parents is not 
sufficiently grown up to be a wife. 

A young wife wrote that just as she was going into labor 
her husband left her to drive his mother to a bridge party. 
I knew that short of a miracle she would feel forever second 
to her mother-in-law. The humiliated woman wrote: "I 
had to phone the neighbor next door to drive me to the 
hospital. Fll never get over the shame." 

Realigning loyalties can be agonizing, particularly when 
a parent is involved. Feelings of guilt can play havoc when a 
choice must be made between two people who are close to 
us. Sons and daughters who have been reared successfully do 
not feel that marriage imposes a choice; there are no pangs 
of guilt attached to leaving mama and papa. The goal for 
all children should be independence. The successful parent 
prepares his child to stand on his own and be a central 
figure in another family. Too often the parent who refuses 
to let go and insists "my child needs me" is twisting the 
facts. What he means is "I need my child." 

The adult approach is to recognize the different kinds 
of love. It is possible to love and at the same time a wife, 
a mother, a sister and a grandmother, cherry pie, football, 
Lincoln, Rembrandt, and Bach. But we don't love them all 
in the same way. The kind of love which results in marriage 
should be unique. It should be a combination of admira 
tion, respect, physical desire, mutual interests and mutual 
goals. 

The key to the in-low problem independence 

Some newlyweds as well as long-married couples create 
their own in-law trouble. They feel free to borrow money, 
accept large financial gifts, drop in on mom for meals any 



y8 MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 

old time, ask her to baby-sit and present her with their 
youngsters when they go on trips. If the mother-in-law is 
used as a sitter because she is handy and free, then the 
mother should be content to let her unpaid sitter discipline 
the children in her own way. If the disciplinary methods 
are not to the young wife's liking, she does not have the 
right to complain. I frequently receive letters from wives 
who say: 

"My mother-in-law is ruining our children. When we 
leave them at her house weekends, they run wild. She 
gives them candy and ice cream between meals, lets them 
watch TV until they fall asleep on the floor, and she 
doesn't even insist that they keep their hair combed and 
their faces clean." 

I tell such women to hire a sitter and give her orders. It's 
cheaper in the long run and it will save wear and tear on 
everyone. 

Independence from in-laws is vital if young marrieds are 
to build a solid relationship. A husband and wife should 
not carry their personal disagreements to the homes of their 
parents, either individually or together. Husband and wife 
troubles should be settled between themselves. One wise 
mother-in-law from San Luis Obispo wrote: 

'When my daughter-in-law and son begin to raise their 
voices and I see an argument brewing, I leave. I don't 
want to witness any quarrels. I don't ever want to be 
asked to take sides." 

The wife who tattles on her husband and the husband 
who down-grades his wife are disloyal. The knowledge that 
a mate has blabbed about intimate family problems can 
destroy for all time the trust and confidence which are es 
sential to a sound marriage. 

The mature husband and wife run little danger of in-law 



MUST WE OUTLAW THE IN-LAW? 79 

interference because they were reared to lead their own 
lives. Mature people don't get that way by accident. They 
can make decisions, accept responsibility for themselves, 
and they don't whine to mom and dad when things go 
wrong. 

In-laws can be wonderful 

The Bible story of Naomi and Ruth eloquently describ 
ing the devotion between a woman and her daughter-in-law 
has been repeated millions of times in every country in the 
world. Many warm and beautiful in-law relationships exist 
today, as my mail testifies. Often when readers write about 
unrelated problems, I note the line: "My mother-in-law is 
a marvelous person. She has helped us in so many ways. I 
love her dearly." 

To all mothers-in-law I would like to say this: If you once 
had to put up with an interfering mother-in-law, try to re 
member what it was like. Spare your daughter-in-law the 
hell you endured. If your mother-in-law was wise and under 
standing, you know how fortunate you were. Give your 
daughter-in-law the same break. 

Since it is the wife who most often complains to me 
about her husband's mother, I would like to direct my clos 
ing lines to her. Think ahead. One day you will probably be 
a mother-in-law. You will wish to be treated with kindness 
and understanding. You won't want to be shut out of the 
lives of your children. Remember that every mother has an 
emotional investment in her children. In the evening of her 
life, her greatest joys and satisfactions come from the knowl 
edge that her children are content and that she is loved 
by them. When your mother-in-law gets you down and 
granted, she may be off base a country mile, remember that 
no one is without some fault. Be tolerant. Be forgiving. Re 
member, she raised the boy you selected for a husband. 



A 

SEVEN 



Marriage is not for everyone 



l 

HE DIVORCE RATE in America is at an all-time high and 
it is going up. The bars and taverns are crowded with 
married men who would rather sit around and get stoned 
than go home. They spend hours seeing double and 
acting single. Magazines continue to print helpful articles 
on "How to Hang on to Your Husband'' while the wives 
write to me and complain that hanging is too good for 
'em. And still the cry is heard throughout the land, "You 
oughta get married/' 

Our society exerts enormous pressure on both men and 
women to "get married and live happily ever after/' Some 
employers insist on it; they run advertisements which 
specifically state "Only married men need apply." The 
implication is that married men are more reliable than 
single men. But are they? Well, some are and some aren't. 

Relatives often view the unmarried member of the family 
as the odd one. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and 

80 



MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 8l 

cousins by the dozen, are forever looking for "a nice girl 
for Irving/' Well-meaning friends never give up trying to 
put the singleton in double harness. Some singletons need 
and appreciate a friendly assist but it's a safe bet that when 
a man or a woman reaches the middle thirties without a 
trace of rice in his hair, he's better off single. 

I don't believe that marriage is good for everyone. Some 
people should go it alone. I call them non-marriageables 
and they arrange themselves into distinct categories. 

The most obvious non-marriageable personality is the 
adult who can't cut loose from his family. This apron-string 
type is most frequently a male. Every community, no mat 
ter how small, has at least one. He is attractive, intelligent, 
successful and considered "very eligible." He often dates a 
lovely woman for several years and tells all within hearing 
distance that he'd like to marry her some day, but for aU 
kinds of complicated reasons he must wait Put all his rea 
sons together and they spell M-O-T-H-E-R. 

Pity the woman who falls for him. She finds herself with 
a pleasant escort, good company, and out of circulation. 
No other man would ask her for a date because she's 
spoken for. She is reluctant to break off with him be 
cause she's "grown accustomed to his face" and she keeps 
telling herself that eventually, when all his problems are 
solved, they'll be married. 

The following letter from Cincinnati illustrates such a 
situation: 

"I've been going with a man for 12 years. Ill call him 
Ron. He is thirty-eight years old. I am thirty-five. We be 
long to the same church, we're college graduates and we 
share common interests. The wedding date has been set 
five times in the past ten years. Each time he has postponed 
it. The last three postponements were because of his 



82 MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 

mother. Ron claims her health is poor and she couldn't 
stand the excitement. 

"I offered to be married in her living room with just the 
family present. He said no even that would be too much. 
Ron lives at home and he's made it clear that when we 
many I must move into his mother's house because she 
could not be left alone. I agreed. In fact I have agreed to 
everything he has asked for, but still no results. I love 
Ron and I know he loves me. The years aren't doing me 
any good. I'm afraid I'll be too old to have a family if 
we don't get married soon. What can I do? 

Not Getting Any Younger'' 

I told her that 12 years is much too long just to "go 
with" a fellow and that she should tell him promptly 
either to fish or cut bait. The man who gets such an ulti 
matum usually cuts bait, and it's just as well. He doesn't 
really want to get married. He enjoys the company of 
women (particularly sex privileges) and to the casual ob 
server he appears to possess all the qualities that make for 
a fine husband. But he's unwilling to take on the respon 
sibilities of a husband. Marriage frightens him. 

The next letter deals with a woman who has the same 
problem. She is outnumbered by her male counterpart 
about 100 to 1, judging from the letters I receive, but 
she does exist. It is her steady boy friend who writes: 

"Before I drop this sweetheart of mine right on her 
smart head I would like a word from you. Frankly, I've 
just about had it, but if you say to give her a little more 
time, I will consider it. We've been going together seven 
years. Kate is thirty-four years old and has never married. 
I am forty-four and have been divorced ten years. When 
we first met, I couldn't figure out how a girl with her looks, 
charm and brains escaped marriage, but I'm beginning to 
understand. 



MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 83 

"She's a newspaper woman, witty, full of pep and 
stimulating company. She lives with her father who is a 
doctor. Her mother died when she was a teen-ager. Kate 
is often expected to attend social functions in connection 
with her jobcocktail parties honoring celebrities, pre 
views, receptions and so on. She frequently brings her 
father instead of asking me to accompany her. Then too, 
she goes to the annual medical convention with her father, 
which means part of her vacation time is spent with him. 
I asked her to marry me in the spring and she said her 
Dad had invited her on a two-month trip to the Far East 
and she was arranging for a leave of absence. When I told 
her it was marriage or the trip and she could take her 
choice, she accused me of pressuring her and asked for 
more time. What should I do? 

Tired of Waiting" 

I told "Tired" to give her as much time as she wanted, 
the rest of her life in fact, but that lie ought to quit wasting 
his time and find a woman who was grown up enough to 
get off her Daddy's lap. 

Another non-marriageable type is the one whose wife 
writes to me, unfortunately, following the marriage. He is 
the incurable skirt-chaser. This letter from Santa Barbara, 
California, tells the story: 

"Fve been married for 16 years. We have a lovely family 
and a beautiful home. If you met us socially you'd think 
we were a very happy couple. No one knows how much 
swallowing of pride Fve done to keep our home together. 
We were married less than three months when he began 
to chase around. First it was a woman in his office. He'd 
been seeing her during courtship and couldn't get out of 
the habit. Then it was the nurse who worked the night 
shift when he had minor surgery. Next, the wife of a 
young man who worked for Mm, then a divorcee in our 



84 MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 

crowd (a good friend of mine). He would admit to each 
affair when it was over and beg me to forgive him. His 
latest fling was with a college girl. She is only four years 
older than our own daughter. This was the most crushing 
blow of all. I'm at the end of my rope. I find lipstick on 
his handkerchiefs and telephone numbers in his pockets. 
Women phone him at home and he says, 'I can't talk 
now/ Fm not a cold person, Ann, if that's what you're 
thinking. In fact I never refuse him. He doesn't need to 
go looking for love. Divorce is out; it's prohibited by our 
religion. Tell me, please, what can I do? 

Don Juan's Wife" 

Although it is Mrs. Juan who asks for help, it's her hus 
band who needs it. I explained that she had married a man 
who should have remained single. He is insecure, doubts 
his virility, and needs perpetual reassurance. A new con 
quest is the best prop for his sagging self-esteem. Therapy 
is sometimes successful, but few men will go to a psychia 
trist with the problem because they fail to equate sexual 
promiscuity with emotional illness. They envision them 
selves as irresistible lady killers. 

Some wives tolerate such shenanigans better than others. 
If there are children I advise the wife to try to keep the 
home together. But if a husband's chasing is so flagrant 
that it brings humiliation and distress to his family, I sug 
gest that the wife invite him to move out of the house. Un 
fortunately, the chronic rover boys seldom straighten up 
and fly right. They usually give up the chase only when 
they wear out. 

Now and then a letter will come to me describing the 
plight of a husband whose wife needs constant attention 
from a variety of lovers. A man from Hamsburg, Pennsyl 
vania, wrote: 



MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 85 

"I worked the night shift and would get home about 
three in the morning. Whenever I opened the front door 
I thought I heard the back door slam. For a long time I 
was sure I was imagining things. Finally I began to hear 
rumors, so I hired a private detective. In the course of 21 
days, my wife entertained eight different men, including 
the butcher, the real estate agent who sold us our home, 
an insurance salesman and a couple of close friends of 
mine." 

Obviously, this woman is too sick for marriage. If she 
hadn't married, she would have spared her husband untold 
agony. 

Then there are those who don't want to marry but don't 
know it. Their fears are below the conscious level, and 
they keep the truth well hidden, even from themselves. 
Men and women populate this category equally. If you 
suggest that they have no genuine desire to marry, they 
enter devout and loud denials. But don't believe them. 
Here's one from Syracuse, New York: 

"I'm thirty-three and Fve been going with a bachelor 
for five years. Just when I think everything is set and start 
to make plans for our wedding, something happens. Harry 
has a genius for getting himself involved in business deals 
that keep him broke. The guy is forty-four, handsome, fas 
cinating, nobody's fool, and we like the same things. 

"He is also a target for every phony who passes through 
town. Two years ago, when we had our wedding date set, 
he got into a deal with some fast operators who imported 
semi-precious stones. They were guaranteed to look like 
diamonds only you had to heat them up every six months 
or they'd get cloudy. He went for his total savings on that 
one so we had to postpone the wedding plans. Last April 
I was all set to be a June bride. In May somebody sold 
Harry a salt mine which belonged to the state of Utah. 



86 MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 

He was so broke after that deal that I had to lend him 
money to live on. 

"He says he loves me but he refuses to get married 
until he can assume the financial responsibilities of a hus 
band. The way things have been going, I'm beginning to 
think that day will never come. How much longer do you 
think I will have to wait?" 

The answer is obvious: "Probably forever." 
Women who drag their feet on the way to the altar em 
ploy a variety of devices. The most tired excuse is "I have 
to take care of 'mama 7 or "papa/ " They always seem will 
ing and able to take care of everyone but themselves. A 
man from Grand Rapids wrote about his woman friend, 
with whom he'd been going for 11 years. Her device was 
interesting. He said: 

"I can never get her alone. She has three nieces and 
two nephews and whenever I go to her place, she has one 
of them there. She takes them along on dates, asks if I 
mind, and of course I say no." 

I told "Grand Rapids" there must be something wrong 
with him as well as the woman if he has stood still for this 
dodge for 11 years. She has been protecting herself against 
serious involvement by using her nieces and nephews as 
bodyguards. 

Another non-marriageable type is the undeveloped juve 
nile. The male predominates. Such men were spoiled as 
children, usually by mama, an auntie or their sisters. They 
are incapable of loving because loving means giving and 
they don't know how to give. They need continual flattery, 
must be catered to, amused and pampered. When they 
don't get their way they are ill-tempered and sometimes 
abusive. 

Women who marry these selfish little boys bargain for a 



MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 87 

lifetime of misery. From Rochester, Minnesota, comes a 
typical bill of particulars: 

"My purse is so empty I have to stuff tissue paper in it 
so it won't look flat. When I say my husband doesn't give 
me a dime, I'm not exaggerating. He pays all the bills and 
says there is nothing left over. Yet he has one of the best 
gun collections in the state. Last month he traded his 
motorcycle for a new one. He has two cycling outfits that 
cost over $100 apiece. I haven't had a new winter coat in 
six years. He leaves the children and me five evenings a 
week to go cycling with his friends. Most of them are 
teen-agers." 

Another example, from Butte, Montana: 

"My husband has left me every weekend in the past 
three years. He takes off on Friday and doesn't come home 
until late Sunday night. It's bowling trips, hunting, fish 
ing, skiing, football games, anything that happens to be 
going on out of town. When I told him I was sick and 
tired of staying home and that we ought to go out to 
gether once in a while, he said, 'Didn't I take you to the 
hospital in April to have the babyf " 

The most easily recognized non-marriageable female is 
the wildly competitive type. The poor boob who marries 
her deserves sympathy instead of congratulations. Every 
one (but the victim) seems to know what he's in for. The 
competitive woman is usually successful in business or a 
profession. She is competent, aggressive, driven and domi 
neering. Her theme song is "anything you can do, I can do 
better/' She hails the taxi, orders the dinner, finishes his 
sentences and wants to lead on the dance floor. She is a 
better man than he is and she lets him know it. She pours 
a great deal of her energy into her work and finds her major 
satisfaction in the feeling of importance that it gives her. 



88 MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 

She makes a lively dinner companion but a horrible 
wife. To her a man is an audience, a whipping boy, an ob 
ject of her hostility and sometimes a willing slave. If she 
marries, she usually selects a Milquetoast character who is 
searching for a reincarnation of his bossy and punishing 
mother. 

The non-marriageable men who possess excessively ag 
gressive characteristics are the compulsive workers or the 
money grabbers. The compulsive worker can be a scientist, 
a newspaper editor, a politician, or an artist, but usually he's 
a businessman. He eats, sleeps and dreams his career. It is 
not money that motivates him; in fact he frequently passes 
up more lucrative opportunities to stay with the work he 
loves. He would rather work than eat or sleep and often 
this is precisely what he does. Such a man is better off 
single. He contributes little to marriage and it is difficult 
for any wife to settle for the crumbs. 

The money grabber can often fool a woman. She is de 
luded into thinking hell make a good husband because he 
is obviously headed for financial success. He is dynamic, 
aggressive, indefatigable and imaginative, all fine qualities. 
But they can be destructive qualities when they're not bal 
anced by a decent set of values. This letter from Washing 
ton, D.C., underlines the dangers: 

"My husband and I have been married 12 years. I can 
count on one hand the number of times in the past two 
years that he has sat down at the dinner table with the 
children and me. He is either out of town on a big deal 
or having his dinner with business associates. Oh, he's 
successful all right if you measure success by a beautiful 
home, two cars, a cook, a maid and charge accounts. The 
best part of my marriage is our three children, and I had 
to travel with my husband on business trips to get preg 
nant. 



MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 89 

"My friends envy me because we have had fabulous 
Vacations' all over the world. Little do they know. My 
husband never takes a vacation. Every vacation turns out 
to be a business trip. The only time I see him is on the 
plane or ship. The minute we land some place, he gets 
in touch with some financial people and opens up a new 
branch. I am always alone. 

"He is really in love with his business and not with me. 
Fve known it for a long time. Once I told him how I felt 
and he replied, 'Would you be happier if I was a slob 
who didn't amount to anything?' Well, Ann, maybe I 
would. I'm miserable this way. No name, of course. Just 
sign this letter 'Money Isn't Everything.'" 

Alcoholics, both men and women, are risky marriage 
gambles (in my book they are non-marriageables). When 
I receive a letter from a reader who is considering mar 
riage to a heavy drinker, I do my best to knock it in 
the head. If the drinker will prove his willingness to sub 
mit to treatment, there may be a chance that the marriage 
will succeed. A young woman from Logansport, Indiana, 
wrote: 

"He's a wonderful guy but liquor is his weakness. He 
tells me he drinks because he needs me so desperately. He 
promised to cut down as soon as we are married. What 
do you think, Ann?" 

I told her (and all the others who have posed the ques 
tion) that marriage has never been known to cure alcohol 
ism. If the guy is serious about his desire to dry out, let him 
prove it before marriage by joining Alcoholics Anonymous 
or by availing himself of therapy. If he can stay out of the 
sauce for six months (and this means not a drop) then 
perhaps this marriage will succeed, but even then she 
should be aware of the risk involved. 

Alcoholism is, of course, a symptom of other problems. 



90 MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 

The man or woman who cannot handle his troubles and 
must seek solutions at the bottom of the bottle is better off 
unmarried. The grief alcoholics bring to their families is 
indescribable. In my view it is an act of charity for an alco 
holic to stay single and not inflict himself on others. 

Letters from homosexuals who despise the life they lead 
and yearn to be "like other people" give me a sense of 
helplessness because a cure for those who have reached the 
mid-twenties is extremely unlikely. Marriage does not qualify 
as therapy. I recommend psychiatric treatment because au 
thorities agree that it can contribute to understanding and 
help them gain insight into their problem. The homo 
sexual who believes he was '"born wrong" (a theory which 
is generally unacceptable to psychiatrists) has a defeatist 
attitude and finds it difficult or impossible to adjust to 
conventional living. 

In Dr. Albert Ellis' book, Sex Without Guilt, he says 
there is not an iota of clinical evidence that fixed homo 
sexuality is inborn. He believes, rather, that it results from 
severe emotional damage in childhood. The homosexual 
who understands that his problem is an emotional one and 
not a physical defect and seeks therapy can sometimes 
make a good adjustment to single life. 

Every non-marriageable type mentioned so far is an ex 
treme neurotic. We have discussed the apron-string child 
who can't break away from mama or papa; the chronic 
chaser, both male and female; the unconscious coward who 
is afraid of marriage and doesn't know it (but manages to 
fall in a manhole just three steps shy of the altar) ; the unde 
veloped juvenile who is so in love with himself that he 
wants no part of sharing; the highly competitive woman 
who may need a bed partner but not a husband; the com 
pulsive worker and the money grabber; the alcoholic and the 
homosexual. 



MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 91 

Another non-marriageable type should be added to the 
list but it's difficult to label her because she doesn't fit into 
any of the categories mentioned so far. She appears to be 
perfectly normal I use "she" because women dominate 
this group. 

She is abnormal only in that she lacks the instinctive 
drive to marry or her drive is of such low voltage that she 
isn't even aware of it. I rarely receive letters from these 
women because they don't feel the need for advice. They 
are contented with their lot. For the most part they are 
school teachers, librarians, or secretaries personable, well 
dressed, and well paid. They lead orderly lives and enjoy 
their work. They save money for that one big annual trip 
and then splurge. They enjoy their independence and 
wouldn't give it up unless someone "really wonderful" 
came along. 

The sad truth is that their standards are unrealistically 
high. So they drift along, not unhappy, not depressed, not 
miserable, not filled with self-pity a little lonely at times, 
but they have an orderly, uncomplicated life and this is 
what they really want 

Some non-marriageables are smart enough to know that 
marriage is not for them. Others learn too late. This letter 
is from a woman in Green Bay, Wisconsin: 

"I can't understand why the career girls who write to 
you feel they are missing so much in life by not being 
married. Where do they get the idea that a husband is the 
answer to everything? I wish one of those gals would take 
mine. I'm not bitter just experienced. 

"Marriage is not the dream it's cracked up to be. I had 
a wonderful job when I married and g^ve it up to be a 
household drudge. I used to be a smart dresser but now 
I don't have the money to spend on clothes. When I was 
a career girl, my life was interesting. I met bright people, 



92 MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 

I traveled, I spent my money as I pleased and didn't have 
to answer to anyone. 

"My husband is a nice guy, but he's dull. His idea of a 
big evening is playing poker with the boys or falling asleep 
in front of the TV set. I've had it both ways and let me 
tell you that marriage is plenty over-rated. Many single 
girls who write to you say they are lonesome. Well, I'm 
married and I'm lonesome, too. To be perfectly honest, 
I wish I were single again. 

Ruth" 

The next letter is from a career girl who echoes Ruth's 
views. This woman, however, is unmarried and likes it. She 
writes: 

"When single girls write and ask you for advice on how 
to snag a man, instead of outlining better trapping and 
baiting methods why don't you tell them that for every 
miserable old maid there are at least three unhappily mar 
ried wives who wish they'd never seen the guy? Sure, some 
of the girls who go through life unattached miss a few of 
the grand privileges like squalling brats, interfering in-laws, 
stingy husbands and the loss of freedom, but there are 
many compensating rewards. The single woman who sup 
ports herself can travel, spend her money as she wishes, 
have a date, a romance or a full-blown affair when she 
feels like it She can turn love off and on like an electric 
bulb. So why don't you level with the girls, Ann? 

Little Rock" 

I agreed with Little Rock that marriage is not for every 
one and that she is living proof. I explained that it takes a 
special brand of tolerance to put up with squalling brats, 
interfering in-laws and all the rest of her litany of grief. 
Not everyone has it. I also told her that a woman who can 
turn love off and on like an electric light bulb must have 



MARRIAGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE 93 

a 25-watt heating system and that marriage demands more 
than that. I expressed the hope that she would not change 
her mind and marry some poor misguided man. 

A life unmarried needn't mean a life wasted or a life of 
loneliness. Many unmarrieds enjoy full and purposeful 
years. They have time, energy and money to spend on 
community affairs and they are often valued and respected 
citizens. 

Unmarrieds have their moments of self-pity, but then so 
do married people. For the singletons I leave this thought: 
Marriage is not for everyone. Your decision to go it alone 
may well have been best, considering your personality, in 
stinctive drives and the goals you have set 



t 

EIGHT 



A life in your hands 



'ARENTAGE/' wrote George Bernard Shaw, "is a very 
important profession, but no test of fitness is ever im 
posed in the interests of the children." 

And maybe it's a good thing. If the test of fitness were 
a written examination based on the theories advanced by 
many of our "experts," millions of successful parents would 
flunk. What we know about raising children is far less im 
portant than how we feel about children. Nature demands 
only that the biological requirements for parenthood be 
met. But parents have a moral obligation to provide their 
children with the emotional equipment to face life and 
measure up to its challenges. 

Every parent wants to "do right" by his children. But 
what is "right"? Once upon a time (and not too long ago) 
mothers were told that a baby should be fed according to 
schedule. If he's asleep when it's time to eat, wake him 
up. If he gets up at dawn and howls for nourishment, let 

94 



A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 95 

him cry until feeding time. Don't pick him up when he 
fusses or you'll spoil him. Teach him to walk as soon as he 
is able to stand. Start toilet training at six months. Parental 
instincts and baby's natural rhythm must be ignored. The 
clock was king. 

Then along came new experts who decided the rigid ap 
proach was all wrong. The pendulum swung to the other 
extreme and the permissive school took over. Parents were 
instructed to throw away the clock. Feed the baby when 
he's hungry. Let him sleep when he feels like it. If he prefers 
to live it up at night and sleep during the day get used to 
it. Never mind toilet training. Don't make an issue of it. 
He'll let you know when he's ready. 

The permissive enthusiasts also set forth new rules for 
developing the "integrated personality." The central theme: 
permit the child to express himself. Don't inhibit him or 
you may damage his personality. If he wants to tear Aunt 
Ethel's feathered hat to pieces, let him. He may be acting 
out an urge to kill the canary. 

When the products of permissive upbringing got into 
trouble in the school, the method began to be questioned. 
The young incorrigibles were labeled "anti-social" by their 
teachers. They "expressed themselves" by grabbing objects 
from other children and kicking the teachers. Since this was 
acceptable behavior at home, the child reasoned, it must be 
acceptable at school. The teachers wouldn't put up with it 
and the child had to learn new ground rules. The result, 
conflict and bewilderment. 

Dr. Lee Kanner, a psychiatrist specializing in troubled 
children, wrote a book for laymen entitled In Defense of 
Mothers. In one passage Dr. Kanner said: 'There is no air 
raid shelter from verbal bombs that rain down on con 
temporary parents. At every turn they run up against weird 
words and phrases which are apt to confuse and scare 



96 A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 

them words such as oedipus complex, maternal rejection, 
sibling rivalry, conditioned reflex, schizoid personality, re 
gression, aggression, blah blah and more blah blah." 

Dr. Kanner pleaded: "Mothers, let us together, regain 
the common sense which is yours/' 

The Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, con 
ducted a revealing five-year study of infant development 
under the direction of Dr. Sibylle Escalona, a psychologist, 
and Dr. Mary Leitch, a psychiatrist. The project studied 
128 infants from families of differing economic, social, edu 
cational and religious backgrounds. At home and at the 
hospital the babies were observed carefully day and night 
A record was kept of each baby's reactions to sounds, ob 
jects, and people around him. Observations were made 
while the infants were feeding, playing and sleeping, when 
they were bathed and diapered. 

The researchers were astonished at the wide range of be 
havior patterns among infants who were not yet one year 
old. Some babies were aggressive and daring, others were shy 
and withdrawn. Some were easily excited by outside stim 
uli, others were slow to respond to voices and the sight of 
food or toys. Some babies lost interest in a toy placed 
slightly beyond their reach while others howled and wrig 
gled until the object was won. 

Some babies got their best sleep during the day, others 
slept better at night. Some were sensitive to the faintest 
noises and awakened at the gentle sound of a flapping win 
dow shade; others slept blissfully while carpenters ham 
mered new shingles on the roof of the nursery. 

To the surprise of no intelligent mother the Topeka re 
searchers concluded that hard and fast rules cannot be 
applied to all infants. Each baby has his own pattern of 
behavior. The wise mother tries to adapt to the needs of 
her own child. 

The method of child raising, it was established, is far 



A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 97 

less important than the attitude of the mother. The most 
valuable contribution a mother can make to the emotional 
development of her child is to love him. The well-informed 
woman who has read all the books (she may even be a 
specialist in child psychology) can fail as a mother if she 
lacks a genuine feeling of warmth for her child. 

Loved people are loving people. The woman who was 
denied love and affection as a child is fortunate if she mar 
ries a man who can give her the assurance she lacked in 
childhood. The way a mother treats her child often re 
flects the love, or the lack of it, between husband and wife. 
Chances are a happily married wife will not resent the 
loss of sleep, the feeding demands or the interference 
with her freedom. And the husband who loves his wife 
takes pleasure in holding the child, feeding him and playing 
with him. 

Warmth is caught, not taught. It is acquired through 
the heart, not the head. The sexually maladjusted, the im 
potent and the frigid who crowd our mental hospitals and 
divorce courts often trace their troubles to a deep-freeze 
early environment. One reader who complained about his 
wife's disdain for sex referred to her as "a chip off the old 
glacier." 

Mother love is supposed to be instinctive. Our folklore 
tells us it is guaranteed to come packaged with every fe 
male, but not every woman has it. Few women are willing 
to admit, even to themselves, that they're incapable of 
mother love. But the tiniest infant can sense hostility and 
anxiety. Often a mother's milk does not "agree" with her 
baby because the mother is in a disturbed state. The 
mother who resents breast feeding her child may be able 
to fool her friends or herself but she can't fool the baby. 
The infant who has a serious feeding problem, skin rashes 
or other signs of disturbance should be under the super- 



98 A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 

vision of a pediatrician, and the mother would be wise to 
seek professional help. 

The healthiest, happiest babies are those who feel 
wanted and loved. The child born into a family of modest 
means, whose parents shower him with love and affection, 
has a better chance for sound emotional development than 
the child of wealthy parents whose major contribution is a 
sterile nursery and a high-priced governess. 

One of the saddest letters IVe ever received came from 
a father who wrote: 

"I am heartsick about our six-year-old son. For the third 
time he has been caught stealing at school. Twice he has 
taken small change out of the teacher's desk and yester 
day he brought home a boy's ring which he said he found 
on the street. The teacher phoned to say she saw him take 
the ring off the wash basin. 

"I am at a loss to understand why Donnie does these 
things. We are able to buy the boy anything he wants. 
Why should he steal anything? 

'The moment the child was born he had every advan 
tage. Although my wife and I travel a great deal, he is not 
neglected. We have an excellent staff of servants and he 
is never lonesome. This stealing has me worried sick. He 
won't talk about it; he just sits there looking sad. He 
treats me as if I were a stranger instead of his father who 
has given him everything. Please tell me what to do." 

It is difficult to tell a father that he is making an emo 
tional cripple of his son, but the evidence in this instance 
was irrefutable. Children who steal feel unloved. The child 
is saying "I can't have love so 111 take something else/' 

Toys and gifts do not take the place of parents who give 
time and attention to their children. I tell parents who 
write about similar situations to stop giving their children 
toys and money and start giving themselves! 



A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 99 

A price tag on love 

The child who misbehaves is frequently scolded and told 
that he is naughty or bad. This idea seems to be peculiar 
to our culture. When a French child misbehaves, his 
mother does not say "Be good!" She says "Sois sage/" 
which means "Be wise/' The French child who behaves 
improperly is not "bad"; he is foolish. The Swedish mother 
admonishes her child with "van snail" which means "be 
friendly." The Scandinavian culture views the undisci 
plined child as unfriendly or uncooperative. The German 
mother says "sei artig" which means "get in line." The 
German concept of good behavior is to conform. 

Children should be taught that consideration for others 
is an essential part of good living. The child who satisfies 
his own comforts and desires at the expense of others 
should be told that he is unfair, not that he is bad. 

If a child breaks the rules he must suffer the conse 
quences but he should not be made to feel that he is un 
worthy of love. If it is meaningful, love is offered with no 
strings attached; it is unrelated to the behavior of the child. 

All children disappoint us and fail us at times. This is 
an inevitable part of growing and learning. But children 
should not feel that they must earn love by being "good." 
Love is their natural inheritance. Children need uncondi 
tional love every day, regardless of what happened yester 
day. To love a child when he is least lovable is the gran 
ite test of parenthood. 

Favoritism and hostility 

It is impossible for parents to have exactly the same feel 
ings about all their children. It is natural to beam when 
a child wins honors. A youngster who is cooperative and 



100 A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 

lovable is bound to produce a warmer response than one 
who is sullen and troublesome. Perhaps the hardest test of 
parenthood is the capacity to pour out an extra measure of 
love and affection on the "difficult" child. And he is the 
one who most needs it. 

If you were to ask parents which child in the family is 
the pet, most parents would deny there is a pet but if you 
were to ask the children, you'd probably get a specific an 
swer. Often the pet wins his position by virtue of his sex. In 
a family of boys, a little girl is likely to be treated like a 
princess. Frequently, the first born is the favorite child be 
cause he gave his parents the first thrill of parenthood. 
Sometimes it's the baby of the family who gurgles his way 
into the special spot, because he's so tiny and cuddly 
and perhaps unexpected. The child in the middle is rarely 
favored. He's edged out both ways and he can't win. 

The cruelest tactic is to make a family pet of the child 
who happens to be the best looking. The son who is the 
image of his handsome dad is often favored over his 
brother who happens to look like a nondescript uncle from 
Keokuk. The girl who is a smaller version of her beautiful 
mother often moves in ahead of her plain sisters. And the 
extra attention the favorite gets from his parents is gener 
ously matched by the resentment of his brothers and sisters. 
Dr. Edward F. Litin, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, says 
it's no coincidence that the least attractive child in the 
family is so often the sickly one. When he finds he can't 
attract attention he develops asthma, headaches or he over 
eats. One of the angriest attacks from displeased readers was 
the consequence of this statement in my column: 

"It is not possible for a parent to love all his children 
'the same/ No two children are 'the same/ A parent may 
love each of his children a great deal, but he loves them 



A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 1O1 

in different ways and for different reasons. It is not in 
frequent for a parent to have a favorite." 

This touched a raw nerve in hundreds of mothers. (Not 
a single father wrote! ) The letters were both vitriolic and 
defensive. The guilt came throughloud and clear. I had 
the feeling that every mother who had a favorite child 
wrote to deny it. 

I explained in a subsequent column (and hundreds of 
personal letters) that feelings cannot be weighed, meas 
ured, or put under a microscope. Furthermore, feelings 
change from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. 
To say parents love all their children "the same" is an 
absurdity. 

There is daily evidence in my mail to support my posi 
tion. The problem, strangely, is often inverted. It is not 
about the favored child that many parents write but about 
the unfavored. This is logical since he is the problem. 
These lines from a Martin's Ferry, Ohio, mother describe 
the dilemma of the unfavored child: 

"I don't know what's wrong with Frank (not his real 
name, of course) . He never seemed to fit into the family, 
even when he was a baby. My other children were all 
blonde and blue eyed. Frank was dark and puny and 
didn't even look like he belonged to us. He was in trouble 
from the minute he could walk. Now he's in jail for 
burglary and we aren't surprised. I always knew he'd end 
up bad." 

It was an Eau Claire, Wisconsin, mother, however, who 
provided me with the classic example of the unfavored 
child who never had a chance. Although it's an extreme 
case, there is a lesson here for all parents. Many parents 
reject their children in subtle ways because of disappoint 
ment in the child's sex, looks, size, ability to learn, physi- 



102 A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 

cal prowess, and on and on. The child senses this disap 
pointment, quits trying to achieve anything and may even 
turn to being "bad" as an attention-getting device. 
The Eau Claire mother wrote: 

"Our daughter Margaret is fourteen. This may be ter 
rible for a mother to say but I wish that girl would walk 
out of the house and not come back. Margaret was a 
colicky, mean baby from the day we brought her home 
from the hospital. When she was three months old, she 
began to look just like my husband's sister Cora who was 
the town tramp. We noticed it when we had pictures 
taken. 

"Whenever I looked at Margaret I was reminded of 
Cora. By the time Margaret was three I was sure she had 
a bad strain in her. She broke every nice thing I had in 
the house and she kept running away. The more I spanked 
her the worse she got. Now she drinks and smokes and 
runs with a gang of hoodlums. We lie to protect her, but 
we know she's mixed up in something bad. Please tell 
me what to do before she gets her picture in the news 
papers and disgraces us/' 

I advised the woman to contact the Family Service Asso 
ciation and request an appointment with a case-worker who 
could guide the disturbed girl. There was little value in 
pointing out that mother was 15 years late in seeking help 
for her daughter, and even later than that for herself. 

Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist, has pointed 
out that if we treat our children as we wish them to be, 
rather than as they are, they will try to live up to that lofty 
image. The Eau Claire mother wrote off her small daugh 
ter as a duplicate of Aunt Cora, the town tramp, and the 
girl proved that Margaret Mead's formula also works in 
reverse. 

All parents (even "cold" ones) can give their children 



A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 103 

some measure of strength and security by following a few 
basic rules. These rules can be applied in the rearing of all 
children from the day they are born. 

Before formulating these guideposts for raising children 
I read stacks of books by acknowledged authorities in the 
field of child training. I also consulted experts who deal 
with problem children. And perhaps most important of all, 
I've had the benefit of a steady feed-back from thousands 
of letters written by parents who are living with these 
problems. 

The books and authorities made one point abundantly 
clear. They said in effect "Everything we say may be 
wrong." I would like to say "amen" to that and re-empha 
size that the instinct of a mother who loves her children is 
better than any authority. So if none of these rules work 
for you, Mother, you can always take this book and whomp 
the kids with it 

1. Remember that a child is a gift from God, the richest 
of all blessings. Do not attempt to mold him in the image 
of yourself, your father, your brother, or your neighbor. 
Each child is an individual and should be permitted to be 
himself. 

2. Don't crush a child's spirit when he fails. Never com 
pare him with others who have done better. Dwell on 
what's right with him rather than what's wrong with him. 

3. Remember that anger and hostility are natural emo 
tions. Help your child find socially acceptable outlets for 
these normal feelings or they may be turned inward and 
erupt in the form of physical or mental illnesses. 

4. Discipline your child with firmness and reason. Don't 
let your anger throw you off balance. If he knows you are 
fair you will not lose either his respect or his love. And 
make sure the punishment fits the crime because even the 



104 A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 

youngest child has a keen sense of justice where he is di 
rectly concerned. 

5. Parents should present a united front. Never join with 
your child against your mate. This can create emotional 
conflict within your child as well as in yourselves. It gives 
rise to destructive feelings of guilt, confusion, and in 
security. 

6. Do not hand your child everything his heart desires. 
Permit him to know the thrill of earning and the joy of 
deserving. Grant him the satisfaction that comes with per 
sonal achievement. 

7. Do not set yourself up as an example of perfection or 
of infallibility. This is a difficult role to play 24 hours a 
day, for years on end. You will find it easier to communi 
cate with your child if you let him know that Mom and 
Dad can make mistakes, too. 

8. Don't make threats when you are angry or wild prom 
ises when you are in an expansive mood. Threaten or 
promise only what you can live up to. To a child, a par 
ent's word means everything. The child who has lost faith 
in his parent has difficulty believing in anyone or anything. 

9. Do not smother your child with superficial manifesta 
tions of 'love/' The purest and healthiest love expresses 
itself in day-in-day-out upbringing which develops self-con 
fidence and independence. 

10. Teach your child that there is dignity in hard work, 
whether it is performed with calloused hands that shovel 
coal or skilled fingers that manipulate surgical instruments. 
Let him know that a useful life is a blessed one and a life 
of ease and pleasure-seeking is empty and meaningless. 

11. Teach your child moral values. Personal integrity, 
truthfulness and the desire to treat others fairly are learned 
from your example. A child imitates the behavior of those 



A LIFE IN YOUR HANDS 1OJ 

close to him. Parents whose daily lives reflect sound ethical 
standards provide their children with the basic tools for be 
coming decent human beings. 

12. Do not try to protect your child against every small 
blow and disappointment. Adversity strengthens character 
and develops self-reliance. He can (and usually will) learn 
more from his failures than from his successes. 

13. Don't always put your children first Remember that 
parents are people, too. If you rush to satisfy his every 
whim, you will produce a self-centered juvenile, ill-equipped 
to fit into society. Parents who always place the wishes and 
comforts of their children first earn little gratitude and no 
respect. 

14. Remember the goal for all children should be inde 
pendence. Don't cling to them or allow them to cling to 
you beyond the time when they should be on their own. 
The person who is always carried will never walk. 

15. Teach your child to love God and to love his fellow 
man. Don't send your child to a place of worship take 
him there. Children learn best from example. Telling him 
something is not teaching him. If you give your child a 
deep and abiding faith in God it can be his strength and 
his hope as well as his light when all else fails. 



i 

NINE 



Father or cash register? 



ANOT-SO-FUNNY description of the American male goes 
like this: "A poor boob who is bossed by his 
mother, dominated by his wife, and hornswoggled by his 
daughter/' 

Historically, the role of the male has been that of pro 
vider, protector and undisputed head of the family. This 
picture of Family Life, U.S.A. has gone out of style. In 
by-gone days this phrase supported the old tintype, "I'll 
have to talk it over with my husband." Today, more fre 
quently one hears, "111 have to talk it over with my wife." 

It has all happened in the past fifty years. And, curi 
ously, the decline in status of the American male is not 
a result of anything he has done or failed to do. The 
social evolution of the American female created "the great 
change." Women now have the vote. They hold public 
office, smoke on the street, drink in bars, wear slacks, and 
drive motorcycles. Women not only stand in buses, they 
drive them. Women practice law, medicine, dentistry. 

106 



FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? 107 

They join the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and 
Air Force. Today, one out of three employed persons in 
the United States is a woman. 

World War II gave the American woman her big boost 
in the man's world. When Rosie the Riveter donned over 
alls and pulled down $144 a week in take-home pay, it may 
not have dethroned dear old Dad but it surely made him 
move over. It was a financial advantage for the family but 
the cost was frequently expressed in the loss of domestic 
tranquility. The price in many families was dissension, de 
linquent children, and divorce. 

Modern woman can do almost everything man can, ex 
cept be a father. The rearing of emotionally healthy chil 
dren requires the combined efforts of a Mom and a Dad. 
The divorcee or widow who carries the double load has 
a difficult time. 

Too many fathers are floating unanchored unsure of 
where they fit into the family picture. I concede that some 
dads don't want to fit into the family picture because it 
would interfere with their own selfish design for living. 
They don't want to be bothered. But other well-intentioned 
males have been shoved aside by domineering wives who 
would like to usurp the role of f ather as well as mother. 

Despite the widely accepted assumption that the Ameri 
can male has been supplanted as head of the family, my 
readers tell me that a great many women not only want 
a husband to assume an active role, but that they need his 
help. The following letter from Minneapolis expresses a 
familiar complaint: 

"Dear Ann Landers: I am both mother and father to 
our four children. The youngest is two, the oldest is 
twelve. No, Fm not a widow. My husband is in excel 
lent health, thank you. But he says the children are my 
job. He has never washed a face, changed a diaper, 
warmed a bottle, signed a report card, helped with a 



108 FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? 

homework lesson, played a game of ball or taken his sons 
anywhere. The only time he talks to his children is when 
he wants them to do something and then it's an order, 
not a request. He never praises them, only criticizes. 

"I know I can't change him. He's unbelievably obsti 
nate. What I would like to know is how will the boys 
feel about their father when they grow up? 

One Alone" 

"Dear One Alone: When your children grow up they'll 
feel toward their father exactly as they feel now. They will 
hate him. The tiniest baby knows when he is loved and 
when he is being ignored. Children who are rejected by 
their father in infancy and scorned during adolescence be 
cause they don't do well enough to merit his praise suffer 
permanent emotional scars. 

"When a parent writes and asks why his grown chil 
dren are cold and indifferent, I tell him the chances are 
good that the kids had to wait until they grew up to get 
even." 

Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame 
University, has said: 'The most important thing a father 
can do for his children is love their mother." The husband 
who loves his wife shows it in subtle ways and their chil 
dren sense it. An extravagant display of hugs and kisses or 
verbal mushing is no proof of love; it may well be a phony 
device to suggest love where there is none. 

One of the best methods of showing love is by contribut 
ing one's physical presenceI mean by just being at home. 
A woman from Saginaw, Michigan, wrote a simple and 
heart-warming letter which expresses the thought elo 
quently: 

"Many women write to you and complain because their 
husbands aren't very good company They expect a man 
who has been working hard all day to come home at night 
and entertain them with interesting conversation. Usu- 



FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? log 

ally what the man needs is a little peace and quiet and a 
chance to be himself. I learned this early in my marriage 
and it has saved a lot of wear and tear on my nerves. 

"My George is not much to look at. He's a plain guy 
in many ways no great reader or talker. I guess some 
women would consider him a dull clod. But just having 
him at home with me and the kids gives me a feeling of 
security. Some nights he doesn't say anything just sits in 
the big chair and reads the paper and falls asleep in front 
of the TV. But when I can look across the room and see 
the big lug it gives me a feeling of peace and contentment. 
I wouldn't trade him for the world." 

Many men make their living traveling and they must be 
away from their families for several days at a time. The 
mother should then do her best to be cheerful about his 
absence and explain that "Daddy is away because he must 
earn a living for us and this is the way he has to do it." 
When the traveling husband comes home, however, he 
should spend as much time as possible with his family. 

Husbands who are absent three or four days almost every 
week and then devote Saturdays and Sundays to golf, fish 
ing, or playing poker at the club abdicate their family re 
sponsibilities. They usually try to justify their behavior by 
saying the/re entitled to a little relaxation because they 
pay the bills. These men are not fathersthey are cash 
registers. And when their children grow up, they will think 
of Dad's checkbook, rather than Dad. 

Now, let's get specific. Just what is a father supposed to 
do? What is his function in the family, in addition to bring 
ing home the bacon? Just being a man is probably the most 
important thing a father does. If children are to develop 
into well-adjusted adults they must know how men are 
supposed to act. Boys imitate their fathers and girls get no 
tions of the kind of man they want to marry from observing 
their dads day after day. 



11O FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? 

When I was a youngster, I adored my father and I at 
tributed to him all the wonderful qualities a man should 
have. I remember him as affectionate, big-hearted, impec 
cably groomed and he had a delicious sense of humor. He 
treated my mother as if she were a queen, but I never re 
call seeing my father in an apron nor do I ever remember 
seeing him perform a single domestic chore. Not that he 
was unwilling my mother simply felt that the man of the 
household should be "above" kitchen tasks. This European 
approach, I am happy to say, died with that generation. 

Particularly in families where both parents work, Dad 
should pitch in at home. There is nothing effeminate in a 
man drying dishes or running the vacuum sweeper. It takes 
a big man to do little things. It's healthy for children to 
grow up with the idea that a family is a cooperative organi 
zation and that everyone should work together in the com 
mon interest. If Mom takes a job downtown to help Dad, 
then Dad should help Mom at home if she needs a lift 
And he should do it without complaint. 

The cartoon stereotype that makes a sissy of the man 
who puts on an apron and helps at home is a fraud. And so 
is the notion that domestication is a sign of domination. 
The man who is sure of his masculinity isn't afraid of an 
apron. 

In far too many families Dad has the role of the execu 
tioner who metes out punishment. This is unfair and it's 
also ineffective. The mother who threatens, "Wait 'till 
Daddy comes home you're going to get it/' does an in 
justice to both the child and the father. To a youngster, an 
hour can seem like a week. "When Daddy comes home" 
the child may well have forgotten the incident; and if he 
hasn't forgotten, the passing of time has made it seem un 
important 



FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? Ill 

I think it's obvious that no child should be slapped across 
the face or struck across the back, legs, or arms. Nature 
provided the ideal target. I am opposed to switches, straps, 
paddles, hairbrushes or other spanking paraphernalia. Again 
nature has provided the best implementthe human hand. 
The hand can strike as mighty a blow as any child should 
receive. 

Dad represents the outside world. How he talks about his 
boss, the people he works with, his job, the government, 
the neighbors, minority groups these are bits and pieces 
which sharply influence his children. Dad gives most chil 
dren their basic ideas of what is right, what is fair, what is 
good, bad, and important. 

There are exceptions, of course. They are the angry young 
men and women who fight whatever Dad is for and cham 
pion whatever Dad is against. Familiar examples are the 
minister's son who winds up in jail or the industrialist's 
daughter who embraces extreme left-wing causes. 

Most young children, however, accept the views ex 
pressed at home as gospel. If Dad says the Democrats are 
going to ruin the country with all their reckless spending, 
the kids believe it. If he says the Republicans are a pack of 
dinosaurs whose conservatism will finish us off, they be 
lieve it. If the American father knew how his children idol 
ize him, he'd work harder to keep that hero image bright 
and shiny. To the child his Pop is the biggest and bravest 
and smartest man in all the world. Every child believes this 
until he learns differently. 

Daddy and his daughter 

"Flowers on my shoulders 
Slippers on my feet 
I'm my daddy's darling 
Don't you think I'm sweet?" 



112 FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? 

This jingle is familiar to every little girl who has ever 
taken elocution lessons. I suppose it has some charm when 
uttered by a four-year-old with a babyish lisp and it's par 
ticularly fetching with gestures, but when the little girl 
grows up, being "Daddy's darling*' can mean trouble. Most 
little girls between the ages of two and seven think Daddy 
is the most wonderful man in the world. 

A disturbed mother from Atlanta once wrote that she 
was terribly concerned about her only child a six-year-old 
girl. She had overheard the youngster say to a playmate 
"When I grow up Fm going to marry Daddy. I don't know 
what we'll do with Mommy. We may have to send her on 
a long trip to China or something." I advised the mother 
that this was par for the course and it would be best to 
smile about it (to herself) and say nothing. 

A father who is overly possessive can have a devastating 
influence on his daughter's reaction to men. Sometimes 
Dad unconsciously encourages dependency by saying in 
effect "You are Daddy's little girl and Fm not going to 
give you to anybody ever." Such possessiveness can erect 
a difficult emotional hurdle for her as an adult. When a 
young man attempts to establish a romantic relationship 
she feels guilty and unfaithful to Daddy. 

The father who knows how to express the proper kind of 
affection helps prepare her for mature womanhood. She 
grows up liking men and, equally important, she has the 
comfortable feeling that men like her. Such a girl has a 
healthy relationship with males and usually selects a loving 
husband often someone who is surprisingly like Dad. 

Some little girls are ignored, or worse yet, treated brutally 
by their fathers. Their personality patterns take on odd 
shapes and they become misfits in society. The girl who 
has been rejected or abused by her father sometimes be 
comes a man hater. If she does become involved with men, 



FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? 113 

they are usually father substitutes toward whom she is 
punishing, hostile, sadistic or masochistic. 

The girl who is ignored by her father feels unloved and 
unwanted. Promiscuous girls are usually searching for the 
love their fathers denied them. I have read numerous his 
tories of delinquents and unwed mothers who were condi 
tioned by such a home environment. In case after case the 
girl said, "My father never paid any attention to me. I 
wanted so much to have a man's arms around me that it 
didn't make any difference who he was/' 

Frequently I get letters from women who say they have 
difficulty writing because they can't see through their black 
eyes. The story is a familiar one "John beat me up again 
the fourth time this month." They go on to recite in detail 
histories of their bruises, loose bridgework and even hos- 
pitalization. The close of the letter is familiar too: "Please 
don't tell me to leave him. I love him very much and he's 
really a wonderful guy when he controls his temper/' 

And I don't tell them to leave. I advise them either to see 
a psychiatrist or to work out a rate with an ambulance serv 
ice and a good dentist. It's clear that these women are 
mentally ill or they would not stick around for repeat per 
formances. Their fathers beat them when they were growing 
up and they unconsciously picked out a man who reminded 
them of dear old dad. 

Father and son 

A great deal has been said and written about fathers be 
ing pals to their sons. I fell into a box of snakes when I 
printed the following letter and my reply: 

"My husband has been doing a good bit of reading on 
adult-child relationships and he has decided a father 
should be a pal to his son. Our only boy is ten. My bus- 



114 FATHER OR CASH REGISTEE? 

band is forty-four. According to my husband most kids 
are scared stiff of their parents. He claims a relaxed 'buddy' 
atmosphere creates a healthy emotional climate. Some of 
our older friends who bought this theory raised spoiled, 
selfish kids who walk all over them. I don't go along with 
it personally, but he says it's sound. May we have your 
views? 

Mommer" 

"Dear Moimner: Your husband must be reading old 
books. Today it's the parents who are scared stiff of their 
children. Too much permissiveness has put youngsters in 
the driver's seat A father should be a father. What ten- 
year-old kid wants a forty-four-year-old pal? A healthy 
father-son relationship is relaxed and friendly. When Dad 
too gets pdsy-walsy, he destroys the symbol of authority 
which every child needs to guide him through childhood 
and adolescense." 

An army of angry fathers swooped down to tell me I 
was all wet. The disagreement seemed to be based on 
semantics. I insisted there's a difference between "relaxed 
and friendly" and "palsy-walsy." They insisted that "pal" 
is a synonym for "friendly" and that I had goofed. 

In one city at least, my timing couldn't have been worse. 
The day the column appeared in the New York World- 
Telegram and Sun under the heading "Ann Landers Says 
Dad Should Not Be A Pal To His Son," a nationally- 
known boy's organization launched its annual drive for 
better father-son relations. The slogan: "Be a Pal to Your 
Son." 

Most sons idolize their fathers and look to them for 
leadership and strength. The father who tries to be a buddy 
destroys this image, A Dad need not be aloof or distant; 
the lines of communication should be kept open and ac 
cessible. A father should be able to have fun with his son 



FATHER OR CASH REGISTER? llj 

even take some gentle ribbing but he should be aware that 
he occupies a unique place in that bo/s world. Underlying 
the fun and informality should be a feeling of respect. 
When I hear a young man tell his father to "Drop dead" 
. . . "Get lost" . . . "Pipe down" ... the weaknesses of 
the pal system become all too apparent. 

One of the saddest injustices that can befall a son is to 
be driven to excel by his well-intentioned father. Fathers on 
both ends of the success ladder are guilty. On the bottom 
rung is the man who never made the grade himself and 
longs to realize his shattered ambitions through his son. At 
the top of the ladder is the man who achieved great success 
and insists that his son be a carbon copy of the old man. 

Both types are highly critical and often punitive. Fre 
quently a boy will rebel against such pressures and with 
draw from the competitive world. We all know unsuccess 
ful sons of successful fathers and we wonder why the second 
generation didn't do better. Usually it's because their fathers 
drove them unmercifully and set standards which were im 
possible to meet. So the poor fellows, fearful of failure, gave 
up without even trying. 

The most challenging aspect of being a father and a 
mother, too is knowing when to remove the safety net and 
let your children learn their own lessons. 

Parents can do many wonderful things for their children, 
but they cannot drill holes in their heads and pipe their 
knowledge and experience into them. Nor should parents 
want to, for learning is a glorious experience. And young 
people can never achieve self-respect and independence 
unless they can learn to take their own lumps. 

However, parents can give their children love, under 
standing, strength and a good example to follow. Children 
who inherit these gifts are the richest of all. And such a 
legacy never leaves the family. It appreciates in value as it is 
handed down from generation to generation. 



i 



TEN 



The war lottwtcn the, sittings 



"The wrath of brothers is fierce and devilish . . " 

Thomas Fuller, 1732 



"Dear Ann Landers: I am a girl eleven years old who is 
very sad. My father carries a picture in his wallet of my 
sister who is sixteen. She is very pretty. I am ugly compared 
to her. Everyone tells her how beautiful she is and she 
sure does know it by this time. 

"My father also carries a picture of my little brother 
who is seven. He looks just like Daddy which makes him 
the second favorite in the family. My father doesn't carry 
my picture at all. I gave him my picture and made sure it 
would fit in his wallet. It wasn't very pretty but it looks 
like me. He put it in the drawer. What can I do to get 
him to carry my picture? 

Left Out" 



THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS liy 

I told "Left Out" her Daddy probably had forgotten 
where he had put the picture. I suggested that she remind 
him and show him this column. 

Jealousy between brothers and sisters has existed since 
Cain slew Abel. The Bible, Greek mythology, ancient and 
current history are rich with examples of hatred and bitter 
ness among brothers and sisters. There's a clinical term for 
it "sibling rivalry." The word sibling means children of 
the same parents. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 
sibb, meaning relatives. 

"Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands 
mourn" and when the man (or woman) is a member of 
the same family, the wounds are deeper and the suffering 
is more acute. Jealousy, aggression, dependency, the desire 
to dominate, and an assortment of other unhealthy emo 
tions are easy to recognize in younger children, but they 
exist in adults too sometimes in an intensified form. Child 
hood hostilities are frequently never resolved they merely 
go underground. 

Adults have more complicated sibling troubles because 
they involve in-law problems not only father- and mother- 
in-law but sister- and brother-in-law. It's a husband who 
writes to complain that his wife is so attached to her 
brother that she neglects the marriage. Or it's a wife who 
writes that her husband's sister (or brother) dominates 
him and he's afraid to open his mouth. 

Brothers and sisters who grow into adulthood, bossing 
and making demands on one another, frequently are un 
able to break these childhood patterns. The result can be 
a shattered marriage. Here are two examples: 

"My wife's brother lives with us and she waits on him 
hand and foot. He hasn't worked in four months. When 
I tell her he's got to find a job or get out, we have a big 
fight and she starts to cry . . ." 



Il8 THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 

"My husband is in business with his brothers. He works 
harder than all of them put together, but we don't have 
a thing to show for it. They all live swell but we have to 
struggle to get by. I've begged him to talk about more 
money but he always finds some excuse. There ought to be 
a law against brothers being in business together." 

Adults who are unable to break away from their brothers 
and sisters are emotionally immature. There are countless 
combinations of such neurotic entanglements and the story 
of how they got that way can usually be traced to Mom 
and Dad. 

Parents who treat each child fairly help them to build 
the foundation for a stable relationship in later years. The 
favorite child or the "family pet" is heir to the hostility of 
his brothers and sisters. If there are special favors or privi 
leges to be had, the children should share them or have 
them in turns. The child who always gets the breaks be 
cause he is the oldest or the youngest or the prettiest or the 
smartest pays a dear price for this preferred treatment. 

School teachers sometimes create bitterness among 
brothers and sisters by thoughtlessly making comparisons. 
It is natural for Miss Jones to identify Willard Smith with 
his brother Oscar. But it can be catastrophic if Oscar is 
brilliant and industrious and Willard is mediocre and some 
what lethargic. The teacher who makes the mistake of say 
ing "I can't understand why you don't do better your 
brother was such a fine student!" does more damage than 
she knows and she injures the relationship, too, because 
the one who suffers by comparison cannot help but dislike 
the brother who has put him in an unfavorable light. 

Many an adult is driven by destructive feelings of com 
petitiveness with brothers or sisters. The childhood wounds 
still hurt. To the one who was always "second best," it 
doesn't matter that he is now grown and eminently success- 



THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 119 

fill. He must still convince the brothers or sisters that he is 
successful. How do these feelings start? No one knows 
exactly why, but there is one axiom: Every child wants to 
be the favored one, whether he is the first born or the 
seventh born. Each child wants all the love, all the atten 
tion and all the toys. As an only infant he gets all of 
everything. When he is obliged to share, he surrenders 
every priority with reluctance. He battles against dethrone 
ment. 

Sibling rivalry can be a manageable family problem or it 
can be an endless round of tattling, fighting, head-bashing, 
and refereeing. It all depends on how parents handle it. If 
the problem is dealt with realistically and intelligently, 
brothers and sisters have a minimum of squabbles (prefer 
ably settled among themselves) and they grow up with 
mutual respect and admiration. If the problem is not 
handled intelligently, brothers and sisters can turn a home 
into a battleground, drag parents into the struggle, demand 
that parents make choices. The result: wild competitive 
ness and lifelong hostilities. 

Parents with more than one child must accept the fact 
that there is rivalry among all children. Because rivalry 
often has an unattractive face, many parents pretend it 
doesn't exist. In an effort to present a family portrait of 
bliss and perfect harmony (artificial, of course, because no 
family achieves this) they say: "Our children adore each 
other. There is no competitiveness in our family. If s all 
for one and one for all/' 

If parents really believe this rubbish, the/ve been hood 
winked by their kids. Children are infinitely clever at con 
cealing their real feelings. In most families there is some 
open warfare among brothers and sisters. Conflict is in 
evitable and should be tolerated, within limits* Honest 
expression of anger is far healthier than smiling on the out- 



12O THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 

side and boiling on the inside. But parents must never al 
low themselves to be drawn into the petty squabbles of 
their children~-comforting the one who complains first or 
who cries the loudest. When such false rewards can be 
won, the fighting is endless. 

The art of buck-passing is an Ail-American family sport 
which is readily learned when parents fail to act with au 
thority. Every child should be taught early that a request 
from parents is a politely worded order not a trial balloon 
sent up to see what will happen. 

Every child should be assigned small chores which bene 
fit the entire family emptying the trash baskets, going to 
the grocery store, or bringing in the wash when it rains. 
They should accept the proposition that it is honorable to 
be a contributing member of a group and dishonorable to 
be a loafer or a goldbrick. 

When there are no assigned duties if s easy to pass the 
buck or evade the responsibility entirely. Children who are 
not made to feel responsible for chores consider "work" 
and "errands'* dirty words. The brothers and sisters then 
compete for the title of "most idle." 

The scene that follows is enacted in thousands of 
homes daily. If it sounds like a tape-recording made in your 
home, you have work to do. 

Mother: "Mary, please go to the grocery store and get a 
loaf of bread and two quarts of milk. We need them for 
supper." 

Mary: "Gee, Mom, I went to the store yesterday. Make 
Jimmy go/' 

Jimmy (who enters the room at that moment): "No 
fair. I went to the drug store for Pop's pipe tobacco last 
night. Besides, Fm just leaving promised to play first base. 
So long." 



THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 121 

Mother: "Jimmy said he went to the drug store for Dad 
last night, so you'll have to go, Mary." 

Mary: "That rat! I heard him tell Dad he wanted to go 
to the drug store for airplane glue and Dad said as long as 
he was there to get him some tobacco." 

Mother: "Oh, is that the way it was? Well, anyway he 
did go, and I need the things so please be a good girl and 
do this for Mother/' 

Mary: "Gee, Mom, I'm right in the middle of an Eng 
lish paper. I have to finish it by tomorrow. You don't want 
me to flunk, do you? Bobby will be home from school in a 
few minutes. Ask him." 

Scene Two: Mother (weary of the buck-passing and ex 
cuses) puts on her sweater and heads for the grocery store. 

Another effective device designed to trap parents into 
displaying favoritism is the old-fashioned tattle-tale game. 
Billy comes rushing into the kitchen, sobbing and scream 
ing. His words are barely understandable. 

"Louise threw dirt in my eyes and I didn't do anything 
to her," he sobs. 

Louise appears in the doorway and shouts "That's a lie. 
Billy threw dirt on me first. He was hiding behind the 
garage and he thought I didn't see him." 

Billy: "I did not!" 

Louise: "You did, too. . . ." 

Mother: "Louise, shame on you for treating your little 
brother like that. Just for that, no movie for you Saturday." 

The moment Mother turns her back Billy is all smiles, 
sticks out his tongue at his older sister and says "Ha, ha, I 
sure got you in Dutch." 

There is no perfect solution but the best way to dis 
courage such performances is to penalize both parties. It's 
a waste of time, patience and energy to try to determine 



122 THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 

who started a fight between two kids. The one who gets 
his story told first usually wins. 

It should be understood that the peace and quiet of the 
home is not to be disturbed by indoor fighting and tale 
bearing. Teach your children to settle their differences out 
sidebetween themselves. When they discover that run 
ning to Mom or Dad with reports will bring punishment 
to both parties, the back-biting stops. The idea behind 
tattling is to win favored treatment, or at least to put the 
other one in bad. When children find it won't work, they 
learn to live together. After all, what's the fun in fighting 
when no one is around to listen and nothing can be gained? 

Many parents invite hostility between children by per 
mitting the younger one to tag along with the older one 
and enjoy the same privileges even though there may be an 
age spread of as much as four or five years. If the older 
child resents this and complains, he is told that he must 
not be selfish and that he must be good to his younger 
brother or sister. 

The older child feels abused and his hostility for the 
younger one grows by the minute. He is sure the parents 
love the younger one more and as proof points to the fact 
that "Bob gets cut in on everything that is mine/' 

This is a double-edged sword. The younger child be 
comes overly aggressive toward the older one because he 
feels he is immune to punishment. Dick has heard Mom 
and Dad tell Victor that he is responsible for "his younger 
brother" and therefore Dick does as he pleases. If something 
goes wrong, Victor gets the blame because he is older. 

Older children should not be saddled outside the home 
with younger brothers or sisters. They should give Mom a 
hand if help is needed, but they should not be asked to 
share their friends, clothing, possessions, or interests. 

Many unhappy teen-agers write to complain that the old- 



THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 123 

est child is the pet of either Mom or Dad or both. In many 
families the first-born gets the inside track, but this does 
not mean he should reign as Queen or King of the house 
hold, ordering the younger ones around as if they were 
lackeys. Older children should not be permitted to push 
their chores on to the younger ones. Nor should they be 
permitted to help themselves to the possessions of the 
younger ones just because they are older. 

Hand-me-downs 

In families where there are several children, regardless of 
the available financial resources, it is not uncommon for 
the younger ones to wear 'Tiand-me-downs." The psycho 
logical effect can be devastating if it is not done with love 
and understanding. The following lines from a young girl 
in Charleston, West Virginia, poignantly illustrates the 
heartache: 

'I'm thirteen years old and I have never had a dress that 
was bought just for me. I have two older sisters and every 
dress I ever had was a hand-me-down. Some of them are 
in pretty good condition if my sisters get tired of them in 
a hurry. I can't wait until I am old enough to quit school 
so I can go to work and buy some brand new clothes that 
have never been worn by anyone else." 

I make it a rule never to volunteer unsolicited advice, but 
I had a difficult time restraining myself in this case. I 
wanted desperately to write to this girl's mother and plead 
with her to buy the child the next new dress in the family. 
I ached to tell her, no matter how much the older ones may 
think they need a new dress, it is not nearly so important as 
getting this thirteen-year-old a dress just for her. 

Boys usually pay less attention to clothes but the younger 
male animal can also have feelings of being second and 



124 THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 

third best if he is forever handed down the used clothing 
of an older brother. Every child should have something 
new which was purchased (or made) just for him at least 
once in a while, 

How parents help brothers and sisters hate each other 

Several years ago in Chicago, an eighteen-year-old boy 
murdered a stranger who was sitting on a park bench. "Why 
did you do it?" he was asked by the police. "Because my 
mother kept telling me I should be like my older brother. 
My brother was always winning honors and things. I could 
never be like him, so I decided to be just the opposite. 
This was the worst thing I could think of to do/' 

It's too bad an automatic gag can't be applied to parents 
just before they utter these poisonous words: "Why don't 
you behave more like your older brother or sister?" If there 
is a more inflammatory sentence in the English language, 
I don't know it. 

It is marvelously healthy for younger brothers and sisters 
to want to imitate the good behavior of their older siblings, 
but they must do so because of honest admiration. An or 
der to "behave like Brother Jack" usually insures contrary 
behavior. There is enough natural competitiveness between 
siblings without encouraging more. 

When Alice comes home with a beautiful report card, 
studded with A's and glowing compliments on her conduct, 
it is natural (and correct) for the parents to show pleasure 
and to praise her. On the other hand, her brother Phil, who 
is two years younger, brings home a card which indicates 
he may flunk English and spelling and that his math is 
borderline. In addition to poor marks, his deportment sug 
gests that he is unwilling to accept direction and that he is 
not working up to his capacity. 



THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 12 

It would be preposterous for parents to congratulate 
Phil on such a card, but he should be dealt with privately 
and independently of his sister. No comparisons should be 
made between his card and Alice's. Phil knows he has done 
poorly and that his sister has done well. When his parents 
set his sister up as the model, he feels justified in hating 
her. In his confusion and anxiety, she becomes the source 
of his troubles. He figures if it weren't for her he wouldn't 
look so bad. His major concern then is not how to do better 
but how to get even with his sister. 

Love each other or eke! 

Too many parents force togetherness on their children in 
the hope that it will make them devoted. Children have 
more in common with youngsters their own age than with 
siblings who are a few years older or younger. 

It would be a better world and a safer world if all people, 
everywhere, loved and respected each otherbut they 
don't; and so long as the human animal remains basically 
unchanged, they never will. But we should be able to learn 
to live together harmoniously. This cannot be accom 
plished in a family by demanding or begging children 
to love each other--"or else." It can be achieved only by 
raising children to be independent, self-sufficient, and gen* 
uinely considerate of one another. The healthiest sibling 
relationships are those which flower naturally out of trust, 
respect, and admiration. 

But brothers and sisters are held together by a mysterious 
bond for as long as they live. The experiences shared while 
growing up give their relationship a unique dimension. 

Brothers and sisters must like each other before they can 
love each other. And they will like each other only if they 
feel they have been treated honestly and fairly. It is the 



126 THE WAR BETWEEN THE SIBLINGS 

parents who set the emotional thermostat in the home. If 
parents are fair to each child and if they encourage each one 
to have his own interests, the children, when they grow to 
adulthood, will not feel the need to compete with each 
other financially, socially, or professionally. They will not 
feel the compulsion to "keep up with" or to overwhelm 
each other. They will have quiet feelings of pride in the 
achievements of one another. They will seek each other out 
as friends because they thoroughly enjoy being together. 
And this is the highest compliment of all. 



i 

ELEVEN 



Double troublt 



HIS SHOULD NOT be a chapter. It should be a volume. 

I Years before I dreamed of becoming an advice colum 
nist, I promised myself I would one day write a book on 
rearing twins. I know how it looks from the inside, because 
my twin sister and I were practically Siamese from the day 
we were born to the day we married and naturally it was a 
double wedding. 

I have attempted to read everything available on the sub 
ject of twins. I have observed twins, questioned their par 
ents, their brothers and sisters, their friends and their 
teachers. And now, as Ann Landers, I receive a great many 
letters from twins. It is disturbing to me that in the past 
twenty years I have encountered so few twins whose parents 
are doing an enlightened job of raising them. I do not say 
this in criticism. If the parents knew better, they would do 
better. But unfortunately, there has been precious little in 
formation available to hdp parents raise twins. 

127 



128 DOUBLE TROUBLE 

The most common and most damaging error is to assume 
that because twins came into the world together they must 
be dressed alike, encouraged to do the same things, and 
instructed to stick together, come what may. This is pre 
cisely what should not be done. 

It is of course easier to treat twins as a single unit rather 
than as two individuals. It requires extra time and energy 
and imagination to steer children of the same age in separate 
directions. It is infinitely simpler for the parents if twins go 
everywhere together, share each other's friends, clothes, and 
interests. And then, too, twins boost the parental ego. It 
makes them feel "special" (for dad, a better word is virile) 
because a multiple birth falsely suggests extraordinary sexual 
prowess. So how do you let the world know? By dressing 
your twins alike, parading them as a unit, and keeping 
them together. This may do wonders for mama and papa, 
but it triggers serious problems for the twins. 

It may be rewarding to review the application of conflict 
ing theories in the rearing of two sets of quintuplets. One 
set was kept together; the other was split up. 

On May 28, 1934, near Callander, Ontario, five little 
girls were born to Oliva and Elzire Dionne. Dr. Allan Roy 
Dafoe, a country doctor, delivered the quintuplets at home 
and is credited with having saved their lives. The Dionnes 
were the first quints in medical history to survive more 
than a few hours. Lillian Barker, a newspaper woman and 
friend of the Dionne family, told the inside story of the 
celebrated quints in her book "The Dionne Legend." 

Author Barker described how Dr. Dafoe became a 
jealous foster parent. He threatened to walk off the case if 
anyone questioned his handling of the children and "ran 
the whole show to suit himself." 

Time Magazine (March 26, 1951) said: "Dr. Dafoe en 
gineered the deal which took the quints from their parents 



DOUBLE TROUBLE 129 

and made them the wards of the Ontario government. He 
moved them into a private nursery and granted the parents 
permission to visit provided they showed their passes." 

Dr. Dafoe signed movie contracts, made broadcasts, en 
dorsed medicine, baby products, and cereals. Souvenir 
stores sprang up in Callander and the quints became an 
international attraction. Visitors (armed with an admission 
ticket) were permitted to look in on the quints through a 
one-way glass window. In 1935 Papa and Mama Dionne 
went on a stage tour. 

Dr. Dafoe died in 1943, but his policies were pursued. 
The quints were to be raised together, dressed alike, sepa 
rated from their parents and other brothers and sisters and 
publicized as a single unit. Then, a year after Dr. Daf oe's 
death, Mr. and Mrs. Dionne succeeded, through an act of 
Parliament, in getting their children back. The quints were 
ten years old when they moved out of the display quarters 
into the family home. By then their personality patterns 
were set. They were shy and clung together. They didn't 
want to be out of one another's sight. When they were 
graduated from high school at the age of eighteen, nope had 
ever been out on a date alone with a boy. 

In 1943, on July 15, another set of quintuplets was born 
in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Three girls and two boys, each 
weighing two pounds, were bora to Maria and Franco 
Diligenti. 

But the world did not know about the Diligenti quintu 
plets until they were almost eight months old. Their multi 
millionaire father had been advised by a physician and 
close friend to shun all publicity and to rear the children as 
individuals. 

The children were registered in widely-separate localities 
so that their multiple birth would be kept a secret. It 
leaked out several months later, but Papa Diligenti still 



130 DOUBLE TROUBLE 

managed to keep them shielded from publicity and ex 
ploitation. He had the means to stick to his program. 

Each quint had a separate room and a private nurse from 
infancy. At the age of seven they were sent to separate 
schools, miles apart. They were permitted to be together 
only during vacations. 

At the age of nine and a half, the Diligenti quintuplets 
received their first public attention on the occasion of their 
first Communion. The world had its first look at the quints, 
and it found them healthy, energetic, outgoing and filled 
with the excitement of living. Each quint was lavishly en 
dowed with self confidence and a distinct personality. They 
spoke four languages Spanish to each other, Italian to 
their parents, English at school, and French when needed. 

Following the Communion Mass, there was a garden 
party for 400 adults and school mates on the Diligenti 
estate. The quintuplets were friendly to each other, but 
they did not huddle together. They went off in separate 
directions and played with their school mates. 

The chances of having quintuplets are 1 in 57 million, so 
therefore it's unlikely that anyone reading this book will 
be faced with the problem. The chances of having twins, 
however, are about 1 in 87. If it happens to you, the most 
important thing to keep in mind is this: treat twins as 
separate and distinct personalities. Remember that each is 
a person. Each has an ego. Rear them as individuals and 
not as a single unit 

My number one rule JOT rearing twins: do not dress them 
alike 

This is so important that I'm asking the printers to put 
it in great big type. I repeat-DO NOT DRESS THEM 
ALIKE!! 

Dressing twins alike is exploitative and it is destructive. 



DOUBLE TROUBLE 1J1 

Why? Because it is an attention-getting device to accentu 
ate their similarities. This defeats the prime objective, 
which is to encourage the development of separate person 
alities. 

Whenever I see a pair of carbon copies on the street 
with their mother, I am seized by an almost uncontrollable 
desire to stop the woman and say 'Tor heaven's sake, please 
stop dressing those children alike!" (I have done this on 
occasion and have been rewarded for my free, unsolicited 
advice with a "y u must be nutty" look.) 

When I have suggested in my column that twins not be 
dressed alike, irate mothers let me know in no uncertain 
terms that their twins want to dress alike. Of course they 
do. But the mothers should not permit it. 

A mother in Madison, Wisconsin, wrote to say her twin 
daughters made a great effort to look as much alike as pos 
sible. One had a natural mole on her left cheek. The other 
twin penciled in a matching mole with a crayon. "They 
spend hours pinning up their hair exactly alike," the mother 
wrote. "I don't think this is good. Why do they do it?" 

I gave the mother this answer: 

"Your twins are using their twinhood as a gimmick to 
attract attention. It works. It sets them apart from the 
crowd at once. Identical twins are on stage at all times. 
The average singleton hasn't a chance in a room with a 
pair of identically-dressed twins. Don't let your twins use 
an accident of nature to put themselves over. Encourage 
them to develop individual personalities. They may resist 
your efforts at first, but in the long ran they will be much 
happier because you laid down the law." 

My number two rule: separate your twins in school if it is 
possible 

Twins in a classroom (a) get more than their share of 
attention (b) confuse the teacher (c) lean on one another 



132 DOUBLE TROUBLE 

for support (d) work less effectively than if they were 
strictly on their own. 

In rural areas, separate schools present a formidable 
problem. The rural family that can afford to send twins to 
separate private schools is fortunate. If the family lives in 
a city where there are several public schools, the problem 
of transportation for one twin is a nuisance, but the re 
wards justify the effort. 

My twin sister and I were in our second year at North 
Junior High School in Sioux City, Iowa, when two en 
lightened teachers, Miss Olive Jones and Miss Irma 
James, decided that we (the Friedman twins) should be 
split up. No teacher had thought of it before. When we 
received our home-room assignments and discovered we 
were to report to different rooms, we kicked up such a fuss 
that one would have thought the school officials had 
plotted to send one twin to Siberia and the other twin to 
Hong Kong. 

Hand in hand we marched to the principal's office. We 
presented a picture of solidarity that would have made 
Damon and Pythias look like strangers. "You can't sepa 
rate us," we moaned. "We'll just die!" 

The principal was a gentle soul. He listened patiently as 
we stated our case. He made a major concession. We could 
be together for two subjects, but we must remain in sepa 
rate home-rooms. This was a partial victory but we were 
less than jubilant. However, during the first week of 
separation, my twin was elected president of her home 
room. This was the first time either of us had been given 
individual recognition, and Fm sure it was one of the 
happiest days of her life. 

Through the remaining ytars in junior high school we 
were separated part-time, and we did not object I think 



DOUBLE TROUBLE 133 

we even secretly enjoyed it, but to have admitted as much 
openly would have been traitorous. 

When we entered Central High School, we had the 
privilege of selecting subjects and teachers, and I am sorry 
to say we slipped back to the sure-fire, attention-getting 
tricks. We selected every course together, once more cast 
ing ourselves in the roles of Kate and Dupli-Kate. For the 
next three years we were side by side in every class con 
fusing the teachers, overwhelming the boys, antagonizing 
the girls, and playing the double exposure for all it was 
worth. 

My number three rule: encourage twins to follow sepa 
rate interests and develop their individual talents 

Because two people may look alike to the casual observer 
does not mean that they think alike or that they have 
identical personalities, work-habits, or talents. 

My twin sister and I both studied the violin. Half of our 
dear father's money was wasted. The half spent on lessons 
for me went down the drain. I had little interest in the 
violin, but it takes two to make a duet and I guess we did 
look pretty cute playing our violins together. It was small 
wonder my sister played the violin better than I. In addi 
tion to having a natural talent for the instrument, which I 
lacked, she took a good many more lessons. My twin fre 
quently substituted for me because I didn't like to practice. 

I realize now that I lacked the initiative in my teen years 
to develop my own special talents writing and public 
speaking. Instead of fiddling around with the fiddle and 
being part of a duet, I should have been on the debating 
team, working on the year book, or writing editorials for the 
school paper. It is unfortunate that some older and wiser 



134 DOUBLE TROUBLE 

head did not recognize this. With the proper guidance I 
might have found my place many years earlier. I loved to 
write, I loved to talk, and I loved to crusade for causes. But 
it wasn't until many years later that I was able to break up 
the vaudeville act and function as a whole person. 

My number four rule: separate fields of endeavor 'mil 
avoid head-on-clashes orworse yetbelow the sur 
face hostilities 

In my opinion, twins should not compete in the same 
field. Such competition may produce a champion, but it is 
far more important to produce two healthy personalities. 

The following letter from a mother of twin sons was in 
teresting because she wrote for help with a problem which 
was actually only a symptom of the main trouble. 

She wrote: 

"Dear Ann Landers: My twin sons are seventeen years 
old and if I say so myself, they are handsome. I am worried 
about them because they have no interest in girls, although 
the girls seem to be crazy about them. They get frequent 
telephone calls from girls, but I have to push them to go 
to parties and take dates. 

"It seems my twins have only one interest in lifegolf. 
They are on the golf course almost every day after school 
until it is too dark to see the ball. Weekends are always 
spent playing golf. Both boys are excellent golfers, but 
one twin has won more tournaments and cups than the 
other. They usually practice together, although some 
times they will play in a foursome. They have no interest 
in playing in separate foursomes." 

The mother added a telling P.S.: 

"My twins are devoted to each other. There is no 
rivalry between them. They haven't had a fight in years. 



DOUBLE TROUBLE 135 

I think it's marvelous that they love each other so dearly, 
but I do wish they would get interested in girls before 
they go to college in the ML Can you suggest something? 

Mother" 

Mother was, of course, off in Disneyland. She had no 
understanding of what was going on in the minds and 
hearts of her sons. She did not realize that her twins who 
"have not had a fight in years and love each other dearly" 
were fighting it out daily on the golf course. They had no 
interest in girls because their energies were directed into 
another channel. These boys were each consumed with a 
single interest to beat out the other one. This was more 
fun than girls. 

I advised the mother to send the boys to different col 
leges. I went further. I told her, if necessary, to forbid 
them to go to the same school. I explained that they were 
too tied up with one another, and too competitive. Sepa 
rated, I suggested, their interests would fan out in a variety 
of healthy directions including girls. 

Mother shot back a reply informing me that I was "out 
of my mind/' She said I had a lot of nerve suggesting that 
her sons were trying to out-do each other. Furthermore, my 
recommendation that they be sent to different colleges was 
downright cruel. She wrote, "God meant them to be to 
gether. He sent them to us together. It would be a sin to 
separate them/' 

I replied: 

"God did not join these two at the hip. He gave them 
separate bodies, separate minds and separate nervous sys 
tems. God sent you two human beings. He meant them 
to be individual personalities. I hope you will cooperate 
with Him and hdp each of your sons to lead his own life." 



136 DOUBLE TROUBLE 

Mother never wrote again and it was just as well. She 
was beyond my reach. It was like trying to bore through a 
concrete wall with a toothpick. 

My number five rule: do not compare one twin with the 
other and do not permit friends and relatives to do it 

I grew up with a pair of deep dimples. My twin sister 
had no dimples. Thoughtless people often said to her, 
"How does it happen that your twin has dimples and you 
don't have any?" I can't say for certain how my twin felt 
on hearing this inane question hundreds of times but I 
can imagine. 

No mention should be made of differences between 
twins. If one twin boy is smaller than his brother, you can 
bet he is sensitive about it. On one occasion I heard an 
adult ask a nine-year-old who was noticeably smaller than 
his twin brother, "Why don't you grow faster and catch up 
with your twin brother?" The child was crestfallen and 
stood silent. My blood pressure had risen about 20 points, 
and I turned to the adult and said, "What' s so special 
about being bigger than somebody? I always went for the 
short fellows myself. What counts is not being short on 
brains." 

The nine-year-old looked at me with the most grateful 
eyes I'd ever seen. "Gee," he beamed, "111 have to remem 
ber that one!" 

On another occasion when I spoke in San Bernardino, 
California, several young people crowded around after the 
speech. A pair of identically-dressed twin girls asked for my 
autograph. One of the girls said with an air of false bravado, 
"We're twins but my sister is prettier." My heart went 
out to her because I knew that she had heard this from 



DOUBLE TROUBLE 137 

others many times and she had learned to protect herself 
against the hurt by saying it first. 

I told the little twin that I would give her my autograph 
in exchange for hers and to write down her address be 
cause I wanted to drop her a note. She was delighted. The 
following week I sent her a four page typewritten letter on 
"twinship" and told her never again to mention her sister's 
better looks or to feel that it made her second best. I told 
her that looks don't matter to people who are worth know 
ing. It's how we live, how we treat others, and what we can 
contribute that counts. 

She replied: 

"Dear Ann Landers; I will keep your letter forever. You 
will never know what you have done for me." 

Parents can protect their twins against thoughtless com 
parisons by stopping people dead in their tracks with "We 
never compare our children if you don't mind." 

My number six rule: encourage your twins to be honest 
and open about their feelings 

There is competition between all brothers and sisters. 
This is natural and it is normal. Twins can be twice as 
competitive and they usually are. Parents who fail to 
understand this make real trouble for their twins. Twins 
should not be made to feel guilty or disloyal if they don't 
stick together on all things. 

I remember the sense of guilt I suffered when, at the age 
of eleven, I screwed up the courage to express a preference 
for shredded wheat over puffed rice. I had been brought up 
to feel that "everything with twins should be alike/' I knew 
my sister preferred puffed rice and she knew I preferred 
shredded wheat so we used to alternate. One day both of 



138 DOUBLE TROUBLE 

us would eat puffed rice, and the next day we'd both have 
shredded wheat. It was a momentous morning when I an 
nounced, "Look, you can eat puffed rice every day if you 
want it, but I'm having shredded wheat." She was perfectly 
agreeable, but I'm sure she felt as I did that somehow we 
were letting our mother down. 

Twenty-three years later, in 1952, I supported Adlai 
Stevenson for President. My sister supported General 
Eisenhower. We reminded each other of the shredded 
wheat and the puffed rice and laughed about it. In spite of 
the passing of many years, however, there were still twinges 
of guilt because we were not "sticking together." It was 
nobody's fault. The early training had left its mark and 
the roots were deep. 

Parents of twins should encourage their children to be 
individuals, to feel free to disagree. Twins should develop 
their own likes and dislikes. They should cultivate their 
own friends, hobbies and interests. Every twin should paste 
this motto where he can look at it every day: "The one 
thing that I can do better than anyone else is to be myself." 



1 

TWELVE 



How well do you know your teen-ager? 



"Children need models more than they need critics/* 

Joseph Joubert, 1842 



WHEN i WAS YOUR AGE . . ." What parent has 
never uttered this poisonous phrase? What teen 
ager doesn't regard it as the prelude to the dreariest of all 
monologues? 

Our children don't want to hear about how we did 
things when we were their age. In the first place, it's dif 
ficult for them to believe we ever were. And somehow we 
always manage to sound as if we were better behaved, 
harder working, more sensible and more respectful. Do you 
enjoy listening to little stories in which the narrator is the 
hero and, by implication, you are the villain? Neither do 
your children. 



159 



140 00 YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 

What were you really like when you were a teen-ager? It's 
not easy to remember, particularly the unpleasant things. 
We bury a great deal of what we don't want to remember 
by blocking out the painful experiences. After a while it's 
almost as if they never happened. And this is good because 
if we had to begin each day with a vivid memory of 
yesterday's wounds, the suffering would be intolerable. 

But just for now, try to think back to your teen years. 
How did you feel about yourself and others? Did you make 
friends easily or did you feel a little "out of it"? Were you 
relaxed about your friendships or were you competitive 
with others for the attention of the people you liked best? 
Were you always as sure of yourself as you wanted the 
world to believe? Or was part of your outer confidence 
bluster and bluff? Were you your best self at all times or 
did you trim a little here and cheat a little there? 

How did you feel about your parents? Did you ever feel 
that they were too old-fashioned, too demanding, too nar 
row minded or perhaps downright stupid? Did you ever 
feel unwanted, unloved, and completely worthless? 

What was your attitude toward sex? Did your mother or 
father ever talk to you about it? If you are in your forties or 
older, chances are that the subject was taboo in your home. 
So you grew up with the vague feeling that there was 
something terribly wrong with it Sex thoughts made you 
feel guilty and ashamed. 

Where did you get your sex information? Probably from 
friends. In every teen-age circle there was someone who 
knew more than the rest. They learned it from the maid, or 
the yardman, or they eavesdropped on older brothers and 
sisters. One thing was certain you knew a lot more about 
sex than your parents thought you did. And your children 
know more about sex than you think they do, too. 
When I was eleven years old, I sent away for a leaflet 



DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGEK? 141 

called "Margaret Mae's Twelfth Birthday." When it arrived 
(in a plain envelope) I slipped down to the basement stor 
age room with the leaflet tucked in the sleeve of my sweater. 
I recall my eager anticipation. After reading two pages I was 
sure Fd been swindled. I felt like writing and asking 
them to return my dime. There wasn't a bit of information 
in that leaflet that I hadn't known for at least three years. 
I could have written a better one myself! 

In the teen-age circles of yesteryear someone in the 
crowd usually managed to get his hands on a little book 
let called "The Art of Making Love." It had diagrams and 
some big words which nobody understood but you got the 
idea. The booklet was passed around until it was dog-eared 
and nearly illegible. It was exciting to read such things, 
but all the while you had the nagging suspicion that you 
were evil and that sex was unclean and nasty. 

The booklet raised many questions in your mind. There 
was a lot about it that you didn't understand. You were 
eager to learn the answers, but you couldn't go to your 
parents because they might be shocked. Besides, you never 
thought of your parents as people who would know any 
thing about sex. They seemed so proper. 

If we can recapture our own teen-age experiences, we 
will be better able to understand our children. Armed 
with understanding we can guide them along the path of 
maturity and useful living. 

Have you ever wondered what your teen-agers think of 
you? Well, I can tell you that their ideas change from day 
to day and from week to week. A boy of thirteen will have a 
vastly different view of his father by the time he has reached 
his eighteenth birthday. An old joke illustrates the teen 
ager's shifting appraisal of his father the joke about the 
eighteen-year-old boy who announced, "When I was thir 
teen my Pop didn't know a darned thing. He was the dumb- 



142 DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 

est cluck who ever lived. It's amazing how much the old 
man has learned in the last five years." 

The most difficult years for teen-agers are from fourteen 
to seventeen, depending on the rate of their glandular and 
emotional development. The transition from adolescence to 
young adulthood can be a frightening experience. This is 
the age of self-consciousness, of long arms and big feet. 
Teen-agers need an extra dose of love and moral support 
during these awkward years when they seem to be forever 
tripping over themselves. 

Don't let the fagade of bravado fool you. The too-tall 
or too-short boy may make jokes about his size, but it's 
tough to be different from the rest of the crowd. The 
underweight or overweight teen-age girl may seem cheer 
ful but you can take my word for it, she suffers silently. I 
receive many letters from adolescents who cry on my 
shoulder because they are ashamed to let anyone else know 
how they feel. This letter from Portland, Maine, tells a 
typical story: 

'Tm a girl, fifteen, and so miserable I can't describe my 
feelings. I put on a jolly front but inside I die. My mother 
is petite, like a little China doll. My Dad was a tackle at 
Notre Dame. With my lousy luck I had to be built like 
him instead of her. I'm not fat, Fm just big. 

"The problem is my grandmother who lives with us. 
Whenever anybody comes to the house she says 'How 
old do you think Marcia is? Take a guess/ Of couise they 
guess about nineteen or twenty and I feel like crawling 
under the rug. I have asked Grandma a hundred times 
please not do this to me any more, but she only smiles and 
says 'Don't be so touchy, child!' The other evening she 
did the same thing in front of about eight people. She 
asked everyone to 'take a guess/ I got so mad I couldn't 
control myself so I said to one of the men "Now how old 
do you think Grandma is?' He answered 'About eighty/ 



DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 143 

Well, Grandma is seventy-one and she was furious. She 
marched right into the library where my dad was doing 
some book work and told him what I had said. Then she 
told my mother. They both said I should apologize. Do 
you think I should, Ann?" 

The letter was signed "The Moose." I replied: 

"Apologize. And if Grandma hasn't learned her lesson, 
say it again and then apologize again. Your grandmother 
does not understand the agony of children who are large 
for their age. Calling attention to your physical size is 
cruel particularly when you have repeatedly asked her 
not to. You should be permitted to protect yourself as 
best you can." 

In the years between fourteen and seventeen your teen 
ager is likely to be most critical of you. The hostility is often 
open, and there may be "I hate Mother" and "I hate 
Father" days. If you can understand what is behind this 
hostility, it will help you to live through some dark mo 
ments. 

When a child says "I hate you," he hates himself, too. 
He is unhappy and frustrated. His feelings of conflict are 
bewildering and frightening to him. Teen-agers are eager 
for independence but they are afraid of it, too. They want 
more freedom but they aren't certain they can handle it. 
They insist they want to be let alone to "run their own 
lives" but they are often fearful of leaving the nest 

The following letter catalogues a good many of the teen 
age gripes against parents: 

"I have two problems my mother and my father. They 
are driving me nuts. They don't realize that I am a grown 
woman of fifteen. They want to know who is on the phone 
every time it rings. They want to know the life history of 
every fellow I gp out with. They want to know where I'm 
going every time I step my foot outside the house. Mother 



144 DO YOTI KN O W YOUR TEEN-AGER? 

says I'm still a child until there is work to be done- 
then suddenly I'm an adult, She r s on my back every min 
ute about something or other. My dad acts as if going 
steady was a crime or something. I've talked myself hoarse 
on the subject but they don't seem to understand that we 
are living in a different century than when they grew up. 
I need more freedom and I wish you would help me out 
by putting this letter in the paper so they can see it. And 
please hurry your answer. I think I'm cracking up." 

This letter puts a spotlight on the most tormenting ques 
tion facing parents of teen-agers how much freedom should 
I give my child? The question is particularly difficult be 
cause there is no easy formula, no pat answer. 

Some girls at thirteen are wonderful baby sitters; others at 
thirteen need a baby sitter themselves. I have known fifteen- 
year-old boys who handle a car with more skill and judgment 
than their mothers. Other boys at seventeen are so juvenile 
and erratic that it's criminal to let them sit behind the wheel 
even when they're accompanied by an adult 

The question of the^measure of freedom and independ 
ence you give your teen-ager must be determined by a dis 
passionate evaluation of what your te^p-ager is like. I don't 
mean what he says he's like or what you wish he were like 
I mean his record of performance. How does he handle 
his responsibilities and obligations? Does he help with the 
work around the house without feeling abused? Does he do 
the job in school? Is he responsible about the family car 
or do mysterious dents appear in the fender? Does he re 
turn it with the gas tank empty, the battery run down and 
the tires low? Is your teen-ager reliable and truthful? Does 
she respect the curfew you have set for her or do you 
pace the floor at night, worried sick because she should 
have been home hours ago? Does she take care of her 
clothes or does she leave skirts on the chair, blouses on the 



DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 145 

floor, forget to mend what is ripped then beg to borrow 
yours when she's in a hurry and wants to "look nice." 

Children should be brought up to feel that they are im 
portant. They should know that you love them and that 
they are precious to you, but they should know, too, that 
the world is not spinning on its axis for them alone. They 
should be taught that all members of the family are ex 
pected to give as well as take. 

I have a pretty good idea of what goes on when a father 
writes: 

"Our teen-agers act as if they are living in a hotel. They 
never do a lick of work. They check in and out when they 
please and sometimes stay overnight with friends and for 
get to tell us. Their mother is expected to have all their 
clothes pressed and ready to put on at a moment's no 
tice. Our daughter got mad at me yesterday because I 
failed to take a telephone message properly. I didn't get 
the boy's last name. How did I know she was dating three 
fellows named Jack?" 

Teen-agers should be taught that they will be given 
privileges in direct ratio to their ability to assume and exe 
cute responsibilities. Let them know that freedom must 
be earned. A thirteen-year-old girl who must be told to wash 
her neck, practice the piano, and write those thank-you 
notes which are two months overdue should not be allowed 
to have her own telephone and go to the movies on Satur 
day. The general idea is this: If you want to be treated like 
an adult, then act like one. Maturity is measured by a 
teen-ager's capacity to discharge his obligations without 
having to be threatened, nagged, humored, or hit over 
the head. 

All parents should allow their teen-agers to make a great 
many decisions for themselves. The vital question is where 
to draw the line. But wherever the line is drawn, remem- 



146 DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 

ber that even a foolish decision can be a useful one if the 
teen-ager learns a lesson from the mistake. Just take care that 
you don't bail your teen out of every embarrassing or awk 
ward situation. The advice worked for this Buffalo mother: 

"No problem, Ann, just a note to thank you for your 
advice and to let you know it worked. Remember last April 
when our seventeen-year-old son wanted to buy a broken 
down jalopy for $300? He had saved the money from odd 
jobs and Grandma's Christmas checks. We told him the 
car might cost a lot to keep up because it was in pretty bad 
shape and would be needing repairs. He insisted that the 
money was his and that he ought to be free to spend it as 
he saw fit. So he bought the car and Dad and I never 
said a word. After three months the engine needed a new 
block and three tires were shot. He announced at dinner 
last night that the car was sure a bad bargain and he would 
be lucky if he got $30 out of junking it. Nobody said I 
told you so (and Fm sure he appreciated that) but the 
lesson was clear. Dad and I were delighted that he learned 
it first hand. Thank you for advising us to let him learn 
this one the hard way." 

Another letter same lesson, feminine angle came from 
Augusta ? Maine: 

"This may not seem important to you but I need your 
advice fast. It's almost a matter of life and death in our 
house and I don't know what to do. Three months ago 
our sixteen-year-old daughter was given permission to select 
her own winter coat. She shopped for several hours on a 
Saturday afternoon and then brought home two coats and 
asked me to help her decide. One coat was a flashy white 
leather number with patch pockets and a tie-over belt. 
The other one was a navy blue wool, conservative and 
with simple lines. I told her the navy wool would be more 
practical because she could wear it for both sport and 
dress. She said maybe I was right, but the white coat 



DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 147 

would be such a knockout at football games that she just 
couldn't pass it up. So, she bought the white coat. That 
was three months ago. Last night she came to me in tears. 
She has been invited to a dress-up party a week from Satur 
day night and she has no coat to wear. The white leather 
coat is a little cracked and it has turned a bit gray. It's 
too sporty to wear over the silk dress they just don't look 
right together. She wants to buy a new coat and this time 
she is willing to let me select it. What shall I do?" 

Time was short, so I wired her: 

"Don't cave in. Let her wear the white leather coat. 
Next fall let her make her own selection again. I'll bet 
she'll buy a navy wool." 

A white leather coat over a silk dress or $300 spent on a 
bucket of bolts will make little difference in later life, but 
there are some mistakes which we should not allow our 
children to make because they are too costly. When your 
teen-ager wants to do something that you feel could do 
permanent damage say no and mean it. Parents must not 
allow themselves to be cowed or out-maneuvered. Too 
many so-called adults fold up under pressure. Their chil 
dren nag them into saying yes after they've already said 
no. Children learn early if a concentrated campaign of 
pleading will result in a reversed verdict. Experience teaches 
them whether or not they have "collapsible" parents. One 
fifteen-year-old Dayton girl wrote "If I don't get what I want 
I just stop eating. It never fails to do the trick." 

One of the most damaging decisions a teen-ager can make 
is quitting school to take a job. The young person who is 
eager to earn money does not realize that leaving school 
to earn $55 a week may sentence him permanently to the 
$55 level. By the time he knows the score it may be too 
late to go back to school and pick up where he left off. 



148 BO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 

Allowing children to plunge into boy-girl activities too 
soon is another serious mistake. They have no way of 
knowing how much fun they miss in their early years by 
trying to reach out for premature adulthood. Sixth and 
seventh graders can't possibly know of the temptations that 
may come their way if they are allowed to go off in pairs 
and are left to their own devices. The sight of a thirteen- 
year-old boy in a dinner jacket is enough to make me sick. 
A twelve-year-old girl in a strapless tulle evening gown 
(which keeps falling down because the poor thing can't fill 
it) is a pathetic sight. 

Girls who start to date at twelve are usually going steady 
at fourteen. When they've reached the ripe old age of six 
teen, they have dated or gone steady with almost every boy 
of their acquaintance who would ask them out. School 
seems "dull" after four years of extracurricular excitement so 
the next step is marriage because there's nothing left that 
they haven't tried. The following letter is one of my best 
examples of this sorry state of affairs. It was written by a 
Columbus, Ohio, mother: 

"Several months ago our daughter who was fifteen 
started to date a soldier stationed a short distance from 
here. He is nineteen. They fell in love and she dropped all 
her other boy friends. When they asked for permission to 
get married, my husband and I were shocked. We told them 
they had better wait a year or so. At first they accepted it, 
but after a few weeks our daughter told us they were so in 
love we just had to sign for her or she'd have a nervous 
breakdown. We had a long talk with both of them and we 
agreed to give them permission, providing our daughter 
would give us her solemn word that she would stay in 
school and graduate. They were married two months be 
fore her sixteenth birthday. 

"Last week she came to us all upset. Her husband is 
being transferred to Tennessee and he wants her to go 



DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 149 

with him. She would have to break her promise and leave 
school. If we get tough and insist that she keep her 
promise and stay in school, her husband will be mad. 
What can we do?" 

I told the mother that she and her husband could take 
turns kicking themselves for allowing a fifteen-year-old girl 
to marry. The time to have gotten tough was before they 
were married. Married people belong together. If you think 
this case is an isolated one, have a statistic: One bride out 
of every seven in the United States is seventeen years of 
age or younger. 

Teen-agers become expert at wheedling more freedom 
than they should have by falling back on the age-old phrase 
"everybody's doing it Fm the only one in the crowd who 
can't." The strategy, of course, is to make parents feel 
guilty by suggesting that their nineteenth century standards 
are making the youngster look ridiculous. There's only one 
answer for this: "We don't care about 'everybody.' We 
care about you. You are our responsibility and we aren't 
going to let you do things that may jeopardize your future, 
no matter what the rest of the kids are doing." 

The teen-ager may put on a long face and insist that he 
is being persecuted, but secretly he will be pleased that 
you love him enough to be firm. It would be a whole lot 
easier to say yes to everythingand your teen-ager knows 
it. 

All children feel more secure if there is positive direction. 
The delinquent and non-productive teen-ager often goes 
wrong because no one ever demanded that he do cer 
tain things in a specific manner. These unfortunate ones 
grow up unable to stick to principles. Their disregard for 
authority often leads them to failure in school and some 
times to trouble with the law. 

Parental respect has taken a whale of a beating in the 



IJO DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 

past 25 years. I do not believe that children should be 
terrified of their parents (as some of us were) but neither 
should the parents be terrified of their children. Free ex 
change of opinion is healthy and it contributes to an honest 
relationship, but there should be reasonable ground rules. 
If you as parents have a difficult time deciding what those 
rules are, I recommend that you give yourselves the edge 
for a change; your children will take the edge whenever 
they can. It's better to be a shade too firm than a shade too 
lenient 

Nonetheless, if you expect consideration and respect 
from your children, you must give it. Children have rights 
and you must acknowledge those rights and respect them. 
The following exchange illustrates the point: 

"I am so mad at my mother I could just do something 
terrible. Today when I was in school she went into my 
desk drawer and read my diary. It was locked but she 
somehow jimmied it open. There were some very per 
sonal things in there that I didn't want anyone to know 
about. Tonight after supper Mother began to ask me some 
odd questions. I knew something was wrong. When I 
went to write in my diary I noticed that the lock was 
scratched and it had been opened. I accused her out 
right and she said a girl who had nothing to be ashamed 
of wouldn't be afraid to let anybody look at her diary. I 
have lost all respect for my mother. I think she is an 
underhanded sneak. She says I am the one who is wrong, 
not her. What do you think about this? Does a mother 
have the right to go into her daughter's diary?" 

I devoted an entire column to this letter and my re 
sponse because I had had the question put to me so many 
times. The answer I gave was an emphatic no. A diary is 
the personal property of the writer and this was clearly 
an invasion of privacy. 



DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? Itjl 

The column was greeted with warm letters from grateful 
teen-agers. One girl from San Jose wrote: "I can't afford 
to send you flowers, which is what you deserve for that 
wonderful answer, but here's a picture." On a separate 
sheet of paper was a drawing of a lovely bouquet. Of course, 
there was some angry reaction from mothers. The most 
vitriolic letter caine from Memphis: 

"So you don't think mothers should look in their 
daughters' diary? Well, how else can we find out what our 
daughters are up to nowadays? That little tramp of mine 
tells me she's going one place and then she goes some 
place else. Her word isn't worth a nickel. She doesn't tell 
me who she is going with or what she is doing. If I didn't 
read her diary I wouldn't know anything. Mothers know 
better than you what is good for their daughters. So why 
don't you mind your own business?" 

I told the embittered mother that if she must snoop in 
her daughter's diary to find out what's going on, their re 
lationship is in sad shape. I suggested she get outside help. 
A third party (someone the daughter respected) should 
be called in to mediate the war. 

Teen-agers have a strong sense of justice. They can toler 
ate stern disciplinary measures if they feel you are fair. Re 
specting their privacy gives them a sense of self-esteem. It 
also demonstrates that you have personal integrity. A 
parent should not open a teen-ager's mail, listen in on the 
extension telephone or go through bureau drawers in 
search of clues to his behavior. 

Even little signs of respect are important If you don't 
want your teen-ager to barge into your bedroom without 
first knocking, then give him the same courtesy, Say 
"thank you" and "please" when you want him to do some 
thing. Don't order him ask him. If you use a gentle and 



1J2 DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEEN-AGER? 

friendly approach, he will too. If you snarl and bark, he'll 
snarl and bark back at youand at others. 

So when you find yourself tempted to use that phrase 
"When I was your age ... ," go ahead and use it-but 
level with your children. Tell them that you didn't win 
every contest, that you weren't the star of every event. Let 
them know that you didn't get every fellow you set your 
cap for. Tell them a few of your most humiliating experi 
ences. Describe some of your failures. It will make you 
seem more human and they will love you for it. No one 
can be the soul of perfection 24 hours a dayso don't try 
to suggest you managed it. You'll find your children will 
be much more honest with you if they feel you are com 
pletely honest with them. Nobody wants to take his 
troubles to someone who has never made a mistake. 

If you can say to your teen-ager, "Yes, I know exactly 
how you feel because I traveled that same road myself 
and it's rough," he may listen more sympathetically than 
if you say, "You kids nowadays are just spoiled rotten. I 
didn't have one half the opportunities . . ." etc. etc. etc. 

Your major job as a parent is to equip your child to lead 
an independent, productive, useful life. Live with your 
childnot for him. For the most part, let him take 
his own lumps but don't let him jump off a cliff to learn 
first hand what's at the bottom. Be firm but be fair. Re 
spect him and his rights and you won't have to worry about 
his respect for you. 

If you guide your child in the way he should go, he will 
love life and embrace with enthusiasm its challenges. Re 
cently I had one of the most rewarding days of my life 
a day that made me feel that all the effort was worth 
while. It was my daughter's twenty-first birthday. She sent 
me a dozen red roses with one line on the enclosed card: 
"Thank you for having me." 



THIRTEEN 



Teen-agers and sex 

(Note to Parents. Private: Keep Out) 

| HESE ARE the happiest days of your life/' When I hear 
[ an adult say this to a teen-ager I know he has a weak 

memory. Teen-age years can be the worst They are the 

years when you learn some of life's toughest lessons the 

hard way. 

What battles are you teen-agers fighting? Your letters tell 

me. Thousands of teens from all sections of the country use 

the same phrases to describe their misery: 

"I'm a flop. I can't do anything right. I'm the most 
mixed up kid who ever lived." 

"My parents are squares. They are raining my social 
life. I have to leave parties just when the fun starts. . . ." 

"I have a driver's license, but I never get the car be 
cause my mother worries. I drive better than she does. . . ." 

"My dad smelled cigarette smoke on my breath and 
you'd have thought I had committed a murder or some 
thing. . . ." 



TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 

" 



"How can I make a very good-looking guy keep his 
hands to himself? I like him a lot and don't want to lose 
him, but he's been getting out of line lately. Please hurry 
your answer. I have to know by Saturday night. , . ." 

"My boy friend and I have been going steady for five 
months. We are trying to control ourselves but I don't 
know how much longer we will be able to manage." 

"I've told you everything. Could I be pregnant? Please 
answer 'yes' or W in the confidential part of your column. 
If my mother knew I was asking this question she'd kill 
me." 

I have a pretty good idea of what goes on with you kids. 
And I should have because I get my information from the 
most reliable of all sources: you. 

Is it harder to be a teen-ager today than when your folks 
grew up? I think it is, I remember clearly when I was 
sixteen (back in the Stone Age, of course) and it was no 
picnic then. But I believe you kids have an even rockier 
time. Why? Because you have more freedom, more money 
to spend, more leisure, more distractions, and more choices 
to make. 

When I was fourteen and my mother said "No," if I 
asked "Why?" she didn't sit down and tell me about Dr. 
William Menninger or Sigmund Freud. She gave me a 
withering look and said "Because I said so!" And that settled 
it. Maybe I felt she was a little unreasonable, but "No" 
meant "No" and it was silly to think about that subject 
any longer. 

Today many mothers say "Well, dear, it's up to you 
. . . ," and suddenly you find yourself burdened with the 
responsibility of a decision. You know that since the choice 
is yours, you are also responsible for the consequences. This 
can be a problem. 

If I were asked to name the factor which has had the 



TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 155 

greatest influence on teen-age behavior in the past 25 years, 
I would say it is the automobile. A quarter of a century ago 
(which is about when your parents were teen-agers) high 
school boys who had their own cars were as rare as hen's 
teeth. Some fellows (and almost no girls) were able to bor 
row the family car, but it had to be a pretty special oc 
casion. Today, almost every teen-ager can get four wheels 
under him on a moment's notice, A car means more than 
transportation. It can be a status symbol, an energy out 
let and as you know, a portable bedroom. The majority 
of teen-agers who write to me about their intimacies confess 
that the trouble started in a parked car. 

A generation ago girls went with the boys they met in 
school or in church. Generally the boy lived in her neigh 
borhood or no farther away than a bus ride. Today, the 
automobile has made it possible for fellows to show up 
from the other end of town, from neighboring counties, 
suburbs, and even communities a hundred miles away. 
The girl's parents may or may not know the boy's parents 
or what kind of fellow he is. He suddenly appears with a 
car and they drive off together. Fm not saying he's a bad 
apple he may be a plum, but when kids have a car they 
also have the freedom to go wherever they choose and do 
whatever they wish. If they happen to select a drive-in 
theater which features a sexy movie, it adds to the hazards. 

Or they may be double-dating with a couple who have 
been necking heavily for quite some time. Suddenly it 
seems like a good idea, even though they hadn't planned 
on "that kind" of an evening. Add to this a full moon and 
a few cans of beer or a pint of bourbon which just hap 
pened to be in the glove compartment and you have a 
tailor-made setup for big trouble. 

I have addressed hundreds of high school audiences from 
Anderson, South Carolina, to La Crosse, Wisconsinfrom 



156 TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 

New Orleans to Portland, Oregon, and I give a very frank 
talk. There is no point in wasting my time or the time of 
the students by pretending they are wide-eyed innocents. 
Today's teen-agers know plenty. I let them know at the out 
set that I didn't come to criticize, preach, or threaten them. 
I'm there to discuss their problems, openly and honestly, 
and to advise them. My talks are primarily about sex and 
marriage. I don't think I've ever had a disinterested audi 
ence. 

When I was in high school I never heard a speech like 
mine. Even if someone had been willing to speak so frankly, 
I doubt if the high schools would have permitted it. It 
was considered a major event in our high school when a 
big game hunter came with movies of his trip to Africa. 
The closest thing to sex was a three-second close-up of the 
native women bare from the waist up. A few boys invari 
ably giggled or whistled and three or four teachers began 
combing the audience for the culprits so they could be 
removed from the auditorium. 

Kids in our day were more self-conscious about sex than 
today's teen-agers. We were every bit as interested (it's 
fairly obvious the interest has been pretty high since man 
began), but we weren't as sophisticated as you. 

Twenty-five years ago thirteen-year-old girls didn't wear 
lipstick, nylons, nail polish, or tulle formals. Dating started 
at about sixteen. Fifteen-year-old boys didn't own dinner 
jackets and wear cuff links. Did we neck? Of course, but not 
nearly as early nor as often. There was neither the social 
pressure to hurry up and grow up, nor was there the stimu 
lation of drive-ins, leisure time, and spare cash. But we 
did neck, and we were pulled and hauled by our inner 
conflicts just as you are. 

What is necking? Let's define our terms. In plain lan 
guage necking is from the neck up. It is an exchange of 



TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 157 

kisses and caresses, keeping both feet on the floor and all 
hands on deck. Is necking wrong? Well, it depends on what 
it means to you and what it means to the person with 
whom you are necking. 

If you parents happen to be reading this chapter 111 bet 
your eyes are bugging. You are probably muttering "What's 
Ann Landers telling our kids anyway is she saying it's all 
right to neck?" You are not supposed to be reading this 
chapter in the first place it's for teen-agers. And further 
more, if you think your teen-ager isn't going in for a little 
necking, it's time you woke up and smelled the coffee. 

Normal kids neck. I'd worry about a high school senior 
(boy or girl) who has never been kissed. Now that we've 
settled that, let's get on to some rules to keep the necking 
under control. 

If you are seeing a lot of a certain someone, have a 
planned program of activity. Don't just sit around with 
nothing special to do or, even worse, ride around with no 
destination. Teen-agers should bowl, swim, play tennis, 
golf, visit museums and art galleries, concerts and sports 
events. A sensible way to stay out of trouble is to keep 
active and busy. When necking becomes the major interest 
and number one indoor sport, you are playing with fire and 
you could get badly singed. 

For this very reason, I'm not in favor of going steady. 
Young people who spend hours and hours together and go 
with one another exclusively become too intimate over a 
period of months or years. It's inevitable. The couples who 
go steady rationalize their heavy necking because they 
"belong to each other." It is easy to go a little farther 
every time they neck. Kids seldom do less than they did 
the last time. 

The living room of your own home is the safest place to 
neck. And there must always be a light on. It goes without 



158 TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 

saying that a respectable girl never invites a boy into her 
house unless one or both parents are at home. If parents 
have good judgment, they will get lost after saying hello 
and visiting briefly. I am not suggesting that the teen-age 
daughter take over the living room for the evening. (In 
fact the boy who comes over night after night to sit on 
the davenport and raid the icebox is my idea of a creep. He 
can hardly be called a date.) What I am suggesting is that 
the teen-age girl invite her very special fellow in after the 
movie, play, dance, or game. A time limit should be estab 
lished in advance. Thirty minutes is plenty. A sixteen-year- 
old girl should be in the house by midnight and the boy 
should be on his way by 12:30. Dating on school nights, of 
course, is absolutely out. 
And now what is petting? 

Petting is roaming hands, passionate kissing, loose gar 
ments (for comfort, of course). Given all this, somehow 
the feet leave the floor and you gradually become too weak 
to sit up so you recline. Petting can: 
Make you feel guilty and ashamed. 
Ruin your reputation. 

Cause you to lose your boy friend because after he goes 
farther than he knows he should, he may decide you're 
cheap. 

Lead to pregnancy. 
Break your parents' hearts. 

Result in an unwanted marriage or a child out of wed 
lock. 

This letter from Plainfield, New Jersey, describes the 
plight of a teen-age girl who signed her letter "Finished at 
sixteen." 

"Dear Ann Landers; Fm going out of my mind. Please, 
please help me. I keep thinking 111 wake up and find it's 
all a bad dream. But I know better, I started to go steady 



TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 159 

with Paul when I was not quite fifteen. He was my first 
sweetheart and I thought he was the most wonderful guy 
in the world. He was a year ahead of me in school but we 
saw each other every day and usually had lunch together. 
We'd study almost every evening and on Friday and 
Saturday night we'd do something with the gang, go to a 
movie or a party or just for a ride. 

"We started to neck after about five dates. Paul had a 
second-hand convertible and we used to drive to a se 
cluded little spot. After these necking sessions I would 
feel half wonderful and half miserable. He kept telling 
me there was nothing wrong with it when two people 
loved each other. I tried to believe him, but somehow I 
felt ashamed. Last May after the Junior Prom, he had a 
few drinks and so did I. We went off to our secluded 
little spot and it happened. 

"It was as if a big ocean wave had swept me off my 
feet. Paul said he loved me more than ever because I was 
*his.* I was so mixed up that night I don't think I slept 
a wink. Well, once you go all the way, you just can't help 
yourself after that. He'd come to the place where I was 
baby sitting or over to my house or his house wherever 
we were sure we'd have a place to ourselves for a couple 
of hours. 

"We talked about getting married and he always said 
it would be a long way off because he had four years of 
college ahead of him and then engineering school. Well, 
Ann, to get to the point of this letter, I am about three 
months pregnant. I haven't been to a doctor but I'm sure. 
I told Paul when I first suspected it and do you know what 
he said? 'Gee, that's a tough break. I can't afford to get 
mixed up in this. My old man would have a fit. IT1 have 
to deny it if you say Fm responsible/ 

"I see Paul at school every day and he ducks around 
corners. I hate the very sight of him now and I wouldn't 
many him even if he begged me. A few nice fellows have 
asked me out now that they know Paul and I aren't going 



l6o TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 

steady, but how can I accept dates knowing what is hap 
pening to me? 

"I can't concentrate on my school work and my grades 
are slipping. I feel half sick and nervous all the time won 
dering if anybody suspects. My skirts and blouses are 
getting tight and my mother says I look pale and that I 
don't seem like myself lately. Please, Ann, is there any 
place I can go? Will it cost much? How soon would they 
take me? Please send the information as soon as possible. 
It will make it easier if I know these things when I tell 
my folks and Fve got to tell them right away. Thank 
you for any help you can give me." 

If you teen-age girls think this happens only to the 
cheaper types, you're wrong. I have visited homes for un 
wed mothers in a good many cities and some of the girls I 
met were dolls and from fine families, too. It doesn't hap 
pen only to tramps. In fact, the theory has been advanced 
that the tramps don't often get into this kind of trouble 
because they are experienced and know how to prevent it. 
When I addressed a conference of teen-agers in Toledo a 
young girl rose from the audience to ask this question: 
"Why do you direct your comment on moral behavior to 
us girls? Don't you feel that the fellows have an equal re 
sponsibility to keep their emotions in check?" 
I replied, "Because girls get pregnant." 
The cold, hard facts of life however unpretty they may 
sound are these: 

Most boys will go as far as they can. They'll take any 
thing that is offered plus whatever they can talk a girl 
into giving. Boys are more easily aroused than girls and their 
sexual demands are likely to be of a more urgent and in 
sistent nature. A teen-age boy is concerned primarily with 
his biological drives and not with "love." And to be blunt, 
a boy doesn't have much to lose. 
In the olden days (back in the 1930s) the pitch was "Be 



TEEN-AGERS AND SEX l6l 

good because virtue is its own reward." Words like "vir 
tue" and "chastity" are not important in today's teen-age 
vocabulary. These words suggest thin-lipped, strait-laced 
spinsters in choker pearls and red velvet* I don't know 
that it has ever been tried, but Fm willing to bet if the 
words "chastity" and "virtue" were included in a psycho 
logical word-association test, the overwhelming majority of 
teen-agers would link them with Queen Victoria. The 
slogan "Be good because virtue and chastity are beautiful" 
doesn't hold much appeal nowadays. 

So, Fd like you teen-age girls to try this one for size: "Be 
good because it's smart. You have too much to lose if you 
play it the other way." The girl who has respect for herself 
considers her body personal property. It belongs to her. 
She is responsible for what happens to it She doesn't let 
a boy use her as a plaything. 

Some girls who write say they go further than they 
should because they're afraid the fellows won't ask them 
out a second or third time if they don't defrost a little. It 
is not true that the "make-outs" are popular and that the 
well-behaved girls sit dateless. The fireball may get a fast 
play for a limited time, but when the word gets around, 
the girl is considered neither respectable nor desirable. She 
is just "available." 

A good many disappointed mothers write to me about 
this. Here is such a letter from Indianapolis: 

"My daughter is seventeen and hasn't had a date in over 
eight months. I think it's a shame that a lovely, well- 
mannered, bright gill like Rosalie sits home night after 
night while the cheap girls in town are rushed to death. 
When she told me the reason, I was shocked. What's 
wrong with this generation of young boys that they refuse 
to take out a giri unless they can count on a hot necking 
session?" 



162 TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 

I told the mother her daughter was not giving her the 
straight goods. Boys always have and still dolike girls 
who are interesting and good conversationalists (which 
usually means good listeners). Boys enjoy dating girls who 
are fun and can contribute something to the group. Looks 
help, but they are not all-important Some of the most 
beautiful girls in town can be the loneliest while the plain 
Janes may have scads of dates. 

The girl who behaves herself has peace of mind. She's 
free of the agonizing fears which torment her foolish sis 
ters who have overstepped the bounds. Here are a few 
excerpts from the mail pinpointing those fears: 

*Tm scared to death my mother suspects what I've 
been doing. I can't look her straight in the eye. . . ." 

*Tm not going with Jerry any more. There was a lot of 
bitterness when we broke up. I'm afraid he'll tell. . . ." 

"I went too far and now I'm sorry. I don't want to keep 
on this way but I'm afraid he'll quit me if I refuse 
him. . . 

"I'm almost out of my mind with worry. I think I'm 
pregnant. . . ." 

By this time, girls, if you haven't got the idea, here it is 
in one sentence: Sex outside of marriage isn't worth the 
fear, the guilt, the loss of reputation, the anxiety, and the 
risk of pregnancy. 

And now, a word to you teen-age boys: A great many of 
you subscribe to the sophism that sex is natural so why 
not enjoy it I'm not so naive that I think I can change 
your approach to girls, but here are a few thoughts to kick 
around. 

Of course sex is natural. So is eating. But would you 
sit down at the dinner table and pull the leg off a turkey 
or scoop the mashed potatoes up with your hands? Would 



TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 163 

you grab the fresh rolls off a bakery counter and stuff them 
into your mouth? Of course not, because civilized people 
are expected to control their natural instincts. This dis 
tinguishes men from beasts. 

The civilized person disciplines himself. He isn't a slave 
to his impulses. He exercises judgment, respects the rights 
of others, and weighs the consequences of his behavior. 

The following letter shook me. What do you think of it? 

"I'm not writing for advice. It's too late for that now. I 
just hope you'll print this letter. Perhaps it will help 
someone else. Our youngest son is eighteen. He should be 
graduating from high school in June, but he won't. He 
was married three weds ago to a girl who is sixteen. They 
are expecting a baby in October. 

"Betty and Al went together three months. She seemed 
like a pleasant girl, but quite shy. Her parents are divorced 
and her mother works downtown. Al never brought her 
over to the house the way he did other girls and he never 
talked much about her. One day I asked him casually 
where his class ring was and he said Betty had it I asked 
him if he had a crush on Betty and he replied *She's all 
right/ His lack of enthusiasm made me uneasy. 

"It was a month ago today that Betty's mother phoned 
and suggested I come over that evening and bring my 
husband. I sensed trouble and refused to get off the 
phone until she told me more. When she said TJetty and 
Al had better get married right away,' I knew the whole 
story. That night when my husband came home from the 
office I told him. We didn't eat much dinner, just wait 
right over to Betty's house. We took Al with us. 

"It was the most horrible evening of my life. Al sat 
there with his head buried in his hands and Betty cried 
the whole time. Bett/s mother tried to be helpful. She 
offered Betty and Al her bedroom and said she'd take the 
pull-out bed in the living room. It broke my heart when 
she said *Betty will need someone to hdp her care for 



164 TEEN-AGERS AND SEX 

the baby. She doesn't know a thing. She's just a baby her 
self/ 

"So our eighteen-year-old son had to quit high school 
and marry a sixteen-year-old girl. He had planned on going 
to collegeeven had a football scholarship lined up but 
that's out the window now. We begged him to stay in 
school but he said he couldn't face the kids. 

'The worst part of it is I don't think he cares much for 
this girl. They look so sad together. I don't know whether 
it's our fault for not teaching our son better, or the girl's 
fault, or her mother's. But at this stage, fixing the blame 
doesn't help much. Please, Ann, keep alerting these young 
lads to the dangers of going too far. Tell the boys that if 
the girls tease and egg them on, they should think beyond 
the pleasures of the moment. One foolish mistake can 
mean a ruined life for both of them. 

A Mother" 

So, what can teen-agers do to stay out of trouble- 
Girls: You can avoid temptation by steering clear of sit 
uations which can easily lead to unrestrained love-making. 
This means no parking in cars. If you want to neck, go 
home. With your parents in the house you aren't likely to 
go farther than you should. If your parents don't impose a 
curfew on your visiting boy friends, impose a curfew 
yourself. Half an hour is plenty. 

Boys; Don't sit around and look at smutty magazines 
and read junk that fires your imagination and stimulates 
you sexually. Channel your energies into constructive out 
lets. Go out for football, basketball, or baseball. Play ten 
nis, golf, ping-pong, soccer or handball. Improve your 
swimming, wash the car, paint the garage, practice the 
trombone, build a boat, do your homework, mow the lawn, 
dean the attic. Keep busy. 
Boys and girls: Stay away from liquor. I have never heard 



TEEN-AGERS AND SEX l6j 

of liquor doing teen-agers any good. Fve had stacks of let 
ters, however, from high school students who have con 
fessed that if they hadn't had so much to drink, they might 
have avoided trouble. 

Alcohol does strange things. It anesthetizes part of your 
brain. Do you know that numb feeling you get when the 
dentist gives you a shot of novocain? Well, alcohol acts 
the same way. Your vision is affected, your coordination 
is off, and your personality changes. That part of your 
brain which acts as a censoring agent is inoperable. You 
suddenly hear yourself saying things you would not ordi 
narily say. Liquor loosens the tongue and fogs the judgment. 

Often when people drink they imagine they are articu 
late, witty, amusing, even brilliant. They think they can 
sing better and dance better. These are illusions soaked in 
spirits. Alcohol has never been known to improve talent 
or bring out hidden genius. It only plays little tricks on 
your brain. 

Many teens who become involved in sexual adventures say 
they had had too much to drink or it wouldn't have hap 
pened. This is more than likely because liquor removes in 
hibitions and destroys will power. Teen-agers who tell me 
they have to drink to be part of the crowd get this answer: 
"You need a new crowd." 

You teen-agers have your lives ahead of you. It can be a 
glorious adventure filled with tie excitement of achieve 
ment, the satisfaction of service and the joy of reflecting 
favorably on those who love you. 

You must choose the way you will go and accept respon 
sibility for yourself. You have the information and you 
know the score. You can play it right or you can louse 
things up. No one is going to follow you around to keep 
you out of trouble. The best chaperone is your own con 
science. 



FOURTEEN 



The Battle of the Bottle 



"Oh, God, that men should put an enemy in 
their mouths to steal away their brains!" 

Shakespeare 



| AM AGAINST excessive drinking, and this fact is well- 
1 known to those who read the Ann Landers column. I 
am not, however, a Carry Nation who is trying to dry up 
the world. I know that not everyone who takes a highball 
is headed for the gutter or cirrhosis of the liver. Some 
people can take it or leave it alone. But, unfortunately, 
millions of Americans are taking it when they should be 
leaving it alone. 

Some people feel that they need alcohol to lift their 
spirits, settle their nerves, put them at ease, help them es 
cape from reality, sharpen their wits or blunt them so that 

166 



THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 167 

they can tolerate people who drink. As for me, I prefer 
lemonade. This, of course, doesn't make me any better 
or any worse than anyone else. 

Many readers applaud my stand and others have called 
me a "Bluenose," a "Prohi," and just plain hipped on the 
subject. A Tulsa reader wrote: 

"I wish you'd stop beating the subject to death. Your 
incessant hammering on the evils of liquor is making you 
sound like a nut. My husband and I enjoy a couple mar 
tinis before dinner. We've never seen a pink elephant, hit 
a light pole, been evicted from a night club or had a 
hangover that wasn't gone by noon. So why don't you 
button your lip?" 

She signed herself '^Moderate Mixer/' 

I told "Moderate Mixer" that perhaps liquor was no 
problem to her, or to her husband, but that millions of 
Americans were fighting (and losing) a daily battle with 
the bottle. I promised to continue to harp on the subject 
until my typewriter falls apart The following day's mail 
brought many letters from readers who offered to buy me a 
new typewriter. 

The diagnosis of alcoholism as a disease rather than a 
moral deficiency is not new. Whether it should be con 
sidered a separate disease or a symptom of some underly 
ing disturbance, either psychological or physiological in 
origin, is still debated. Even though alcoholism may be 
considered a symptom of another problem, it is so de 
structive in its effects that the symptom itself must be dealt 
with irrespective of the causes. 

Statistical studies recite figures placing the number of 
alcoholics in the United States at from 4.5 to 7 million 
people. But this does not include uncounted multitudes 
of drunks who avoid detection for many years even by 



l68 THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 

their own families the kitchen drinkers and the bath 
room nippers who fill cough medicine bottles with bour 
bon and pour gin into hot water bags. The National Coun 
cil of Alcoholism estimates that every day approximately 
1,000 Americans cross the line that divides the social 
drinker from the alcoholic. The statistic that most dra 
matically makes the point, however, is this: In the United 
State five billion dollars is spent on liquor every year. 

More important than the billions of dollars and the mil 
lions of man hours lost to industry is the tragic waste of 
brilliant minds and able bodies, the warping of what might 
have been lovely personalities, the shattered ambitions, 
wrecked dreams, broken homes, neglected children, and 
the loss of human dignity. 

Although I have heard and read many definitions of an 
alcoholic, I think Dr. Seldon O. Bacon, director of the 
Yale University Center, said it best: 

"If almost all of the people who drink (some 75 mil 
lion over the age of fifteen) can control their drinking and 
the alcoholic can not then this is the clear-cut distinction." 
Dr. Bacon points out that many an alcoholic considers him 
self a social drinker when he is no more a social drinker 
than a kleptomaniac is a paying customer or an arsonist 
is a boy scout 

The search for the "authentic alcoholic personality" has 
been in vain. Alcoholics are found in every walk of life, at 
every intellectual level, in every income group, among the 
very young and the very old. There are alcoholic doctors, 
lawyers, judges, actresses, clergymen, artists, journalists, 
call girls, high school students, scrub women, panhandlers, 
and presidents of big corporations. 

Even animals can become alcoholic. I once received a 
letter from a mother who wanted to know what to do 
about her son who had recently returned from the Navy, 



THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 169 

He insisted on putting beer in their airedale's water pan. 
The mother asked the boy to stop but he replied, "It won't 
hurt him. In fact he seems to like it." And indeed he did 
like it. After several days of lapping up Budweiser, the 
airedale turned up his nose at the water which Mother 
poured in his pan. He sat by the refrigerator for hours and 
cried for beer. When the dog developed a severe case of 
hiccups the woman wrote to me for help. 

I checked with a veterinarian and learned that animals 
can develop a taste for intoxicants, that they experience 
the same apparent exhilaration as humans and that they 
can also exhibit the same symptoms of inebriation. They 
become dizzy, fall down, walk into objects and often be 
come ill or fall asleep. 

No one knows why one person is an alcoholic and the 
next person is not Some specialists insist it is an allergy. 
Others say it is a glandular malfunction. One school of 
thought holds that alcoholism is hereditary. Dr. R6ger J. 
Williams of the University of Texas believes that the alco 
holic has a congenital need for unusual amounts of certain 
food elements. A diet which fails to satisfy this need pro 
duces a craving for drink. Another theory is that certain 
emotions, such as resentment, jealousy, and insecurity man 
ufacture chemicals in the body which, when combined with 
alcohol, destroy the will and the person is no longer in con 
trol of himself. 

All authorities agree that the alcoholic is sick and needs 
help. He is just as sick as the consumptive or the cardiac 
patient. They agree, too, that excessive drinking is triggered 
by a need to escape. It is a means of anesthetizing the brain 
against reality. Alcohol eases, for a time at least, the pain of 
loneliness, failure, grief, and self-hatred The alcoholic 
usually is too immature to face tip to his responsibilities. 
He may be an intellectual giant, but he is an emotional 



r/0 THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 

midget. When he drinks himself into a stupor, he is in 
effect saying: "I don't like me or what I have done with 
my life. I don't want to meet my problems because they 
are too big for me to handle. I will get drunk and run 
away from everything. Besides, if I am drunk, I must be 
forgiven because I am not responsible for what I do or say." 

Some psychiatrists say the alcoholic is attempting to de 
stroy himself one day at a time, either because he lacks the 
courage to put a gun to his head or because he has religious 
scruples about suicide. 

According to Dr. Ruth Fox, medical director of the Na 
tional Council on Alcoholism in New York, one out of 
five alcoholics in America is a woman. These housewives 
who "cook with sherry" somehow have the notion that if 
it isn't in a shot glass it doesn't count. Some of these 
women can kill a fifth before Jack gets home for din 
ner. Only a small percentage of such alcoholics frequent 
bars or land in jail for disorderly conduct. Most of them 
are kitchen drinkers who sip themselves into a state of 
fantasy usually when no one is watching. The beds go 
unmade, the dishes stack up in the sink and the children 
are told that mother has headache spells or gall bladder 
trouble. 

Many people who write to me about marriage problems 
mention liquor as one of the principal sources of trouble. 
Men who are married to alcoholic wives are infinitely more 
sympathetic than women who complain about drinking 
husbands. Seldom will a husband write: "If she doesn't 
quit drinking I'm going to throw her out of the house." 
Most husbands say, "Please tell me what I can do to help 
her. The kids need a mother." 

The family doctor is the best source of advice for a man 
who has an alcoholic wife. Since the highest hurdle is per 
suading an alcoholic woman to admit she needs profes- 



THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE iyi 

sional help, the visit to the family doctor is a face-saving 
device. In such cases I suggest to the husband that he make 
an appointment with the family doctor when his wife com 
plains of not feeling well, then tip him off about the real 
problem. Most doctors don't need to be clued in, since they 
are familiar with the symptoms. 

If the family has the means, the doctor may suggest pri 
vate institutional care. (Such care is expensive and there 
fore impractical for most people.) Or he may suggest psy 
chotherapy. Or he may prescribe a drug which makes the 
patient violently ill if he drinks liquor when he is taking 
the medicine. He may suggest Alcoholics Anonymous or 
some other organization. In any event, the family doctor 
is usually best equipped to help a husband who finds him 
self burdened with an alcoholic wife. 

How to spot an alcoholic 

Many alcoholics can be recognized at a glance by their 
watery eyes, their blotchy skin sometimes florid, some 
times ashen. The alcoholic often has enlarged veins on or 
near the nose. His cheeks sometimes have a tiny network 
of ruptured blood vessels. His breath may smell of alcohol 
or perhaps of mints used to camouflage the alcohol scent 
However, alcoholics in the early stages may appear to be 
perfectly healthy, because physical deterioration hasn't yet 
set in. 

Dr. Seldon O. Bacon in the Kiplinger magazine Chang 
ing Times listed some guideposts to detect the alcoholic. 
If you recognize yourself below, you'd better begin to run 
scared. 

1 . He begins to drink more than other guests at the same 
affair. 



IJ2 THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 

2. He begins to drink more frequently than others in his 
group, using feeble excuses. 

3. He shows more of the sort of behavior that is ordi 
narily forbidden, but tolerated at some social drinking 
functions. Moreover, he is likely to invent behavior-loosen 
ing license where none exists. 

4. He begins to experience frequent blackouts of 
memory. 

5. He ignores the group's ordinary drinking rules and 
over-rationalizes his own drinking. 

6. He gulps his drinks rapidly, especially at the begin 
ning of a drinking session. 

7. He begins to sneak extra drinks. 

8. With increasing frequency he drinks to the point of 
intoxication. He loses control over the amount he drinks 
and when and where. 

9. He begins experimenting with new patterns, such as 
switching from bourbon, say, to vodka, drinking only at 
home or only after 5:00 p.m. He may change his drinking 
locale, usually finding new companions among people 
of inferior status. He may become a "loner." 

10. He avoids all discussion of alcoholism and produces 
alibis and lies when forced to discuss it 

11. He may begin to drink in ways unheard of to the 
nonalcoholic. For instance, he may start the day with seven 
or eight drinks or go on long weekend binges. He may skip 
ice, glasses, chasers, and mixers. He may resort to canned 
heat or vanilla extract 

12. His character and behavior, even when sober, under 
go changes, and he may become quarrelsome, dishonest, 
and self-deceiving. 

13. In the final stages there are many manifestations, 
such as compulsive hiding and storing of drinks against 



THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 173 

future hangovers. Unless treated, premature death may 
end the struggle. 

When the husband is alcoholic, the family suffers so 
cially, mentally, financially, and sometimes physically. The 
following excerpts from my mail illustrate the wide range 
of problems brought on by excessive drinking: 

"When he drinks, he's brutal to me and the children. 
He uses vulgar language and sometimes slaps them or me 
and breaks up the furniture. . . ." 

"Yesterday was pay day and he didn't come home until 
after midnight. He had less than $4.00 in his pocket. The 
rent is due on Monday and we owe the milkman. I can't 
go to my folks again for money. . , ." 

"I found lipstick all over his shirt and handkerchief. 
When he drinks, he always get mixed up with tramps who 
hang around bars. He says he doesn't remember being 
with anybody. . . ." 

"Our teen-age daughter has refused to allow her boy 
friend to pick her up at home after what happened last 
night. Her father was drunk and made a terrible scene in 
front of the boy. He accused him of all sorts of immoral 
things. She broke into tears and begged the boy to 
leave. . . ." 

"I had to call Harry's boss this morning because he 
couldn't get his head off the pillow. I made the excuse 
that he had a backache and wouldn't be in until later in 
the day. The boss said he knew all about those backaches 
and if Harry had one more hangover he was through. . . /* 

The millions of American women who are married to 
alcoholics are, I think, faced with the most challenging of 
all marital problems. It requires understanding, courage, 
moral strength and saintly patience to live with an alco 
holic. Since alcoholism is a degenerative disease unless 



174 THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 

treated, the patient gets worse as times goes on. A shock 
ing number of women who write to me have no idea of 
how to cope with the problem. They don't know what to 
do so they follow their instincts and treat the alcoholic hus 
band as if he were a spoiled child or a miserable wretch 
who gets drunk to make life difficult for those around him. 

I have kept a list of techniques employed by women who 
are married to alcoholics. In their well-meaning way they 
say, "I must do this to keep things going." I tell these 
women that their intentions may be good but that cod 
dling, fighting, covering up and carrying the total load for 
a drunk does not help restore him to a normal life. All that 
these wives manage to "keep going" is the drinking. If you 
recognize yourself when you read the list below, please 
heed the advice which follows: 

L If you make excuses for his drinking by blaming his 
boss, his friends, his job or his war experiences . . . 

2. If you go to work to support the family and give him 
spending money to keep up appearances . . . 

3. If you encourage him to drink at home so that he can 
be watched and not become involved with the law ... 

4. If you send the children on a tour of the gin mills 
to bring him home . . . 

5. If you call up the bar and beg the bartender to throw 
him out . . . 

6. If you pour the liquor down the sink to show him 
"what you think of it . . ." 

7. If you refuse to sleep with him if he doesn't stop 
drinking . . . 

8. If you charge him with assault and battery when he 
beats you, then withdraw the charges and let him do it 
again . . . 

9. If you refuse to cook for him when he comes home 
late and drunk . . , 



THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 175 

10. If you go out with other men because he gets drunk 
and goes out with other women . . . 

11. If you try to pass the responsibility on to the Lord 
and rely on prayer alone to make him stop . . . 

12. If you do nothing constructive, and hope he will 
drink himself to death . . . 

You're on the wrong track if you found yourself on that 
list. The natural responses to a drunken husband are dis 
gust or pity. Neither is good; both are destructive. The 
notion that an alcoholic could stop drinking if he had the 
will power is fallacious. This is like pleading with a polio 
cripple to throw away his crutches and walk. 

To tell a man, "If you love me you'd stop drinking/' is 
like saying to an athlete, "If you cared about personal 
hygiene you'd stop sweating." The alcoholic hates his 
drunkenness, he despises himself and he has probably tried 
to stop, but he can't 

It is impossible to have a decent, rewarding life with an 
alcoholic. The wife who continues to cover up for an alco 
holic husband only prolongs his years of drunkenness. There 
is just one sensible course of action for the wife of an alco 
holic. It is this: Tell him you know he is sick and that he 
needs help. Offer to stick by him and help him to help 
himself. If he refuses, get him out of the house, bag and 
baggage, and tell him to come back only if he is ready to 
accept help, or get yourself and the children out of the 
house and let him know where you can be reached when 
he is ready for treatment 

Where to get help 

I strongly recommend Alcoholics Anonymous because of 
the remarkable job A.A. has done in rehabilitating alco 
holics who have tried everything else and failed. A.A. has 



176 THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 

more than 8,000 chapters in the United States, Canada, 
and over 80 other countries. There are no dues. Anyone 
wishing information on AA should consult his local tele 
phone book. If the organization is not listed, write to: 

Alcoholics Anonymous 
P. O. Box 459 
Grand Central Station 
New York 17, New York 

AA believes that an important part of the patient's re 
covery is the understanding and moral support of the 
family. Al-Anon is an organization which has grown out 
of AA to educate the family of the alcoholic so they can 
cope with the problem. Those who wish to contact Al- 
Anon can do so through the nearest A.A. chapter. 

Many clinics for alcoholics are supported by state and 
local funds. These are listed in the telephone book. Psy 
chiatrists, physicians, and social workers join together in 
many communities to help the alcoholic and his family. 
Many large companies have started programs for their em 
ployees. 

Information about treatment centers can be obtained 
from your family doctor, clergyman, judge, welfare agency, 
city health department, and local police department. The 
National Council on Alcoholism is the nation's best clear 
ing house for information dealing with treatment centers 
and clinics. The Council assists community representa 
tives in organizing and establishing local clinics and in 
formation centers. The Council's headquarters is at 103 E, 
103rd Street, New York 29, New York. 

To the alcoholic I address these words: 

Alcoholism does not come in bottles. It comes in peo 
ple. If you want to be helped, the first step is to admit that 
you are powerless against alcohol. Don't fool yourself into 



THE BATTLE OF THE BOTTLE 177 

thinking you can cut down or control your drinking. You 
cannot. An alcoholic can't drink "like other people" be 
cause he is not like other people where liquor is con 
cerned. His illness makes him different. This is not a sign 
of stupidity, immorality, or weakness. His lack of will 
power is a characteristic of the disease, just as red spots 
are characteristic of measles. There are thousands of peo 
ple who were once in the same spot, or worse, and they 
made it back. The road is difficult and torturous but so is 
the one you are now following, which is also a dead end. 

If you are an alcoholic, the odds are that you're break 
ing the hearts of at least five people a father, a mother, a 
wife, a child, and a brother or sister. No one blames you 
for what you are now. But if you refuse to accept the help 
that is available, you must bear the responsibility for what 
you have done to your life and to the lives of those you 
love. God helps those who help themselves. May God help 
you. 



FIFTEEN 



Be Wgger tkw what happens to you 



"Although the world is very full of suffering, it 
is also full of the overcoming of it." 

Helen Keller 



II F I were asked to give what I consider the single most 
II useful bit of advice for all humanity it would be this: 
Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when 
it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the 
eye and say "I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat 
me." Then repeat to yourself the most comforting of all 
words, "This too shall pass." 

Trouble has its own peculiar values. It can be a friend if 
only because it grows us up. There are many kinds of 
trouble, but the most common is the trouble we make for 
ourselves because of our own stupidity, inexperience, or 

178 



BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 17O 

lack of self-control. Here is an example from Canton, 
Ohio: 

"I let this man move into my apartment because we 
figured it was foolish for both of us to be paying rent. He 
kept promising we'd be married as soon as he could get a 
divorce. I found out last week that I am pregnant. When 
I told him, he got mad at me for *being so dumb/ That 
night he packed his clothes and moved back with his 
family. I am so shocked and hurt by his actions I don't 
know where to turn. I can't go home to my folks. They 
are terribly strict. My father doesn't even allow anyone 
to smoke in the house. I have only $60 to my name and I 
owe some bills. Please, Ann, tell me what to do. I'm going 
out of my mind." 

What can I say to a woman in this predicament? I can 
tell her the man is legally responsible for her medical care 
and for the support of the child. I can tell her if she can't 
afford a lawyer, she should contact Legal Aid. I can direct 
her to a home for unwed mothers. It would be pointless 
to suggest she should not have become involved with a 
married man in the first place. She knows this. 

So what do I say? After outlining the alternatives I give 
her some words of encouragement. What she needs is con 
fidence and the strength to meet the crisis. And I hope that 
by printing her letter, I may save some other foolish 
girl from falling into the same trap. 

Maintaining self-respect in the face of a devastating 
experience is of prime importance. To forgive oneself is 
perhaps the most difficult of life's challenges. Most of us 
find it immeasurably easier to forgive others. Fve received 
letters brimming with self-recriminationletters that prove 
no punishment is so painful as the self-inflicted kind. Here 
are a few examples: 



l8o BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 

"I let my boy friend go too far. Now, when he sees me, 
he looks the other way. Fm so ashamed of myself I could 
just die/' 

"I threw a dish towel in my mother-in-law's face. She 
was trying to be helpful and I lost my temper. How can I 
look her in the eye again? I hate myself." 

"I got caught cheating in a history exam today. All the 
kids know about it I could kill myself." 

"Fm not used to liquor. I only drink to celebrate some 
thing. Last night was my birthday and I got disgustingly 
drunk. I insulted people, became sick in the car and dis 
graced myself. I wish I were dead." 

Fve written this advice thousands of times: 

"It's done. Finished. Over. Stop beating a dead horse. 
There is nothing you can do to change the past. Take 
heart from the knowledge that something good can result 
from everything bad that happens if it teaches you a les 
son. Profit from it then forget it." 

Most people with normal intelligence learn from experi 
ence. Even a white rat will refuse to follow a piece of cheese 
along a maze if he discovers after a few attempts that the 
maze leads him into a puddle of cold water. Some humans, 
unhappily, don't have the common sense of a white rat. 
They make the same mistakes time after time. To them, 
experience merely helps them to recognize the mistake 
when they make it again. My mail is heavy with examples. 
A St. Louis woman writes: 

"I married an alcoholic. He is brutal and Fm scared to 
death of him. This is the third time Fve picked a rotten 
husband. I knew Steve drank a little, but I had no idea 
he was a drunk. Why do I have such miserable luck with 
men?" 



BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU l8l 

Specialists in the field of human behavior tell us that 
people who repeatedly bring disaster down on their heads 
are self-destructive. They feel unworthy and they are un 
consciously seeking punishment. Professional help must be 
sought to end this self-flagellation. Experience is, of course, 
the best teacher, and that's why life is difficult. We get the 
grade first and the lesson later. But the important thing is 
to learn the lesson and then get on with the business of 
living. 

As a youngster I was effervescent, outgoing, and I talked 
too much. I had a talent for saying the wrong thing at pre 
cisely the wrong time. By the time I was a high school 
freshman, I was better able to synchronize my mouth and 
my brain, but still I made mistakes and tortured myself 
because of the foolish things I had said. 

One day a high school English teacher taught me with 
a single dramatic act the futility of rehashing the past. As 
the students filed into her classroom, we noticed on her 
desk a quart bottle of milk standing in a heavy stone 
crock. 

"This morning," she announced, "I'm going to teach 
you a lesson that has nothing to do with English, but it 
has a lot to do with life." She picked up the bottle of milk, 
crashed it against the inside of the stone crock, and it 
splintered into small pieces. "The lesson/' he said, "is don't 
cry over spilled milk." 

Then she invited us to look at the wreckage. 

"I want all of you to remember this," she said. "Would 
any of you attempt to restore the bottle to its original form? 
Does it do any good to wish the bottle had not been 
broken? Does it help to get upset and tell yourself how 
good the milk might have tasted if this hadn't happened? 
Look at this mess! You can moan about it forever, but it 
won't put the bottle back together again. Remember this 



182 BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 

broken bottle of milk when something happens in your 
life that nothing can undo." 

I've reminded myself of that broken bottle of milk in the 
stone crock time and time again. It has helped me to stay 
afloat on stormy waters. And I'm sure it has saved me un 
counted time and unmeasured energy. Our bodies take a 
physical beating when we put ourselves through an emo 
tional wringer. To try to relive the past or undo what has 
been done to daydream about opportunities missed is not 
only foolish, but it's futile. 

Omar Khayy&n put it eloquently: 

'The moving finger writes; and having writ, 
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit 
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, 
Nor all your Tears wash out a word of it" 

Troubk -which results from the ill mil of others 

It would be a wonderful world if all men were honest 
and decent but they aren't and there's no evidence that they 
ever will be. We will always be surrounded by liars, crooks, 
gossips, and bigots and often they seem to prosper in spite 
of their tactics. Sometimes it appears that good fortune 
smiles with special favor on the unconscionable scoundrel 
who climbs to success on the broken backs of others. A 
Cincinnati woman wrote: 

"My husband and I put our life's savings into a busi 
ness venture. A smooth-talker told us we would make a 
fortune. This man sold manufacturing equipment and he 
talked us into starting a small plant. We were to buy the 
machines from him and he would teach us how to run the 
business. He even offered to hire an experienced factory 
manager. 

"I could write a book on what happened. The machines 
broke down and we had to buy new parts which cost 



BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 183 

money we hadn't planned on spending. The plant man 
ager he hired turned out to be an alcoholic who stayed 
home three days a week. My husband and I put in 12 and 
14 hours a day at the factory and we worked like slaves. 
At the end of seven months we were broke and the busi 
ness was in debt. We mortgaged our home and borrowed 
$5,000 from my father-in-law. Three months later that 
was gone, too. The man who talked us into the business 
offered to buy us out for 10^ on the dollar. We had no 
choice. Today that man is running the plant and he's 
making money hand over fist. We learned he owns four 
other factories which he took over the same way. 

**WeVe consulted a lawyer but legally the man is on 
safe ground. My husband has developed high blood-pres 
sure and ulcers. The kids make him nervous, and he hasn't 
spoken a civil word to me in weeks. What can I do to 
help him back to a normal life?" 

I advised the woman to tell her husband that he wasn't 
the first person to be cheated and he wouldn't be the last. 
What the smooth-talker did to her husband was reprehen 
sible but what her husband was doing to himself was worse. 

Fortunes are made and lost every day. In 1929 thousands 
of Americans lost every dollar they possessed when the 
market crashed. Some businessmen put bullets in their 
heads or jumped out of office windows. Others made them 
selves sick with worry. Still others picked themselves up, 
dusted themselves off and went on. The ability to n>B with 
the punches is what separates the men from the boys, 
and the women from the girls, 

Most of us have been victimized in one way or another 
by an unscrupulous opportunist Even the experienced 
can be taken in by a clever operator. In many instances we 
can't control what happens to us, but we can control our 
own reactions to what happens to us. We can stay down 
for the count and be carried out of the ring or we can take 



184 BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 

the beating and pull ourselves back to our feet Sometimes 
the choice isn't even a conscious one. 

Many crises seem insurmountable, but time and again 
we have seen ordinary people display genius in turning 
a hopeless situation into something tolerable or even good. 
There should be a citation for the little guy who manages 
to keep going when he has every right in the world to crack 
up. 

The possibility of nuclear warfare is the most frightening 
prospect faced by modern man. It's no small order to live 
calmly in the knowledge that a lunatic thousands of miles 
away could push a button and finish us all. But every era 
had problems which were equally terrifying to the people 
who faced them. Some frightened souls who spread gloom 
and doom blame the sorry state of the world for their in 
ability to function when the real problem is within them 
selves. D. H. Lawrence described this man when he wrote 
of one of his characters, "poor Richard Lovatt worried 
himself to death struggling with the problem of himself 
and calling it Australia/' 

The high cost of getting even 

When Jesus said in Matthew 5:4 "love your enemy/' 
He was not only suggesting that we make life easier for 
them but He wanted to make life easier for us. Some con 
tend that such advice is folly. Why give our enemies good 
will in return for treachery? Should we not try to crush 
those who try to destroy us? 

By "love your enemy" Jesus did not mean that we should 
"grapple them to our soul with hoops of steel." He did 
mean that to preserve our own mental and physical well- 
being we should refuse to allow ourselves to be consumed 
with hatred or bitterness. We must refuse to give evil peo- 



BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 185 

pie the power to break our spirit, make us physically ill, 
and perhaps even shorten our lives. 

The Chinese saying "We are best to ourselves when we 
are good to others" is a good rule to follow. Bernard Baruch 
knew and practiced this philosophy. 

"One of the secrets of a long and fruitful life/' he said, 
"is to forgive everybody everything every night before you 
go to bed/' 

The expression "I'm worried to death" is more than a 
figure of speech. You can indeed worry yourself to death. 
The word "worry" comes from an Anglo-Saxon word which 
means to strangle or choke. The worrier throttles his crea 
tive powers. When he is able to free himself from worry, 
he thinks better, feels better and performs better. Any 
doctor will tell you that worry, anxiety, tension, and anger 
can make you sicker than a virus. As far back as Plato 
man knew that what took place in his mind produced 
physical changes in his body. 

We are all acquainted with examples of such emotional 
phenomena. An off-color story can produce a blush. The 
sight of an accident can cause nausea or fainting. Stage 
fright can cause a pounding of the heart, excessive per 
spiration, and butterflies in the stomach. 

During the first World War thousands of soldiers were in 
capacitated because of "shell-shock." Many of the afflicted 
had never been near a shell. In World War II they 
called it "battle fatigue," although many of the men 
stricken had never been in combat. They collapsed and 
were unable to function because of fear and anxiety. 

The expression "nervous breakdown" suggests that the 
nerves have broken down, but the problem is purely emo 
tional. Organically the nerves are healthy. A doctor on the 
staff of the Mayo Clinic has said the majority of patients 
in hospital beds today are there because of illnesses which 



l86 BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 

were psycho-generated This means the sickness was trig 
gered by an emotional problem. Dr. Robert Stolar, an emi 
nent dermatologist in Washington, D.C., and my chief 
medical authority, says: 

"I see patients every day who suffer from rashes and skin 
eruptions caused by emotional problems. People who let 
things get under their skin often break out with something 
on the skin/' 

People who are frustrated and discontented often dig or 
pick at themselves unconsciously. The result is a skin irrita 
tion. The stoics who are ashamed to display emotions some- 
times develop skin trouble. Dr. Stolar once told a strapping 
construction worker "Your skin is weeping because you 
cannot." 

Dr. Walter Alvarez says most of the ulcer patients who 
come to his office "got that way from nerves/ 7 When they 
ask if a change of diet would help, he tells them "It's not 
what you are eating that's making you sick. It's what's eat 
ing you/' 

So when you find that someone has "done you wrong/' 
say to yourself "I will not spend one extra minute hating or 
trying to get even. It's too expensive/' Hatred is like an 
acid. It can do more damage to the container in which it 
is stored than to the object on which it is poured. 

Trouble beyond human control 

"I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my 
soul." These words by William Henley offer courage to 
the faint of heart. It's comforting for man to feel that 
he has the power to chart his own destiny. But it isn't 
always true. Even though we may lead the good life and 
fight the good fight we are sometimes tripped up by the 
process of living. Call it bad luck, fate, or whatever you 



BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 187 

choose, but man is at the mercy of trouble beyond human 
control. 
Here are some examples: 

"Dear Ann Landers: I was crippled by polio when I was 
three. My left arm is withered and one leg is in a brace. 
I'm eighteen and have never had a real date." 

"My husband and I lost everything in a flood. We were 
lucky to get our two children out in time. Our neighbors 
on both sides were drowned." 

"My husband lost both legs in a milling accident in 
January. We have four children and it's all I can do to 
keep them clothed and fed. * . ." 

"My wife and only child died in an automobile acci 
dent, I was driving. I don't care if tomorrow never 
comes. . . ." 

The letters usually end on the same note of bewilder 
ment. "Why did this terrible thing happen to me?" 

What can I say to the heavy-hearted and the sick of 
soul? Can I tell them to "forget it"? How foolish! I tell 
them there are no answers. We must trust in the infinite 
wisdom and the goodness of a greater power. I remind 
them of Santayana's advice to those who rant about the in 
justices of life, "Man is not supposed to understand life 
but to live it." 

To a young bride who wrote to me on the day her twenty- 
four-year-old husband was buried I replied: 

"If you lived through today, you can live through to 
morrow. Your burden will be easier to bear with each pass 
ing day. It may be difficult to believe, but I promise you 
will laugh again and enjoy God's good gifts." 

Death and tragedy touch us all sooner or later. When it 
comes it reminds us of our own frailty and it makes us all 



l88 BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 

brothers and sisters. Shortly after World War II, I was the 
chairman of a tea for Gold Star mothers. Some women ar 
rived in chauffeured limousines. Others came on foot, not 
able to afford bus fare. Some wore mink stoles, others, 
woolen jackets. Their backgrounds and daily lives couldn't 
have been more different, but their heartache was the 
same. As they sat side by side, their differences disap 
peared. The tragedy each shared united them for a time 
at least. Never before or since have I seen more dramatic 
proof that trouble is the great equalizer. 

I believe in blind faith. I have known people who have 
suffered deep personal tragedies and they believe in it, too. 
But, I also believe in the efficacy of positive action to over 
come grief. Time is a healer, but those who help time by 
using it wisely and well make a more rapid adjustment. 

Grief, in part, is self-pity turned inside out. The widow 
who wails "He was everything to me. How can I go on 
without him . . ." is crying for herself, not for him. Death 
is sometimes a merciful release from suffering and misery. 
The one who survives must struggle with the problem of 
living. 

The mourner who wears his grief interminably eventually 
isolates himself from his friends. The world may stop for a 
few hours (or perhaps a few days) to hold a hand or to wipe 
away a tear, but friends and relatives have problems of their 
own. Life goes on and those who refuse to go on with it 
are left alone to wallow in their solitary misery. 

The best prescription for a broken heart is activity. And 
I don't mean plunging into a social whirl or running off on 
trips. Too many people try to escape from their heartache 
by hopping on planes, trains and ships. They succeed only 
in taking their troubles with them. The most useful kind 
of activity involves doing something to help others. I have 
told thousands of despondent people, "Enough of this 



BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOTT 189 

breast-beating. What will it accomplish? No matter how 
badly off you are there is someone who is worse off and 
you can help him." 

I advise parents who have lost a child to take a foster 
child, or children, into their home. The woman who has an 
abundance of love to give, and no child of her own to ac 
cept it, can find a number of lonesome and love-starved 
children in hospitals. The secret of successful living is 
giving. There are enormous rewards and satisfactions to be 
reaped working with new Americans, the blind, the deaf, 
the crippled, the mentally retarded and the aged. Happiness 
is like perfume. When you spray it on others you're bound 
to carry a little of the scent away with you. 

Several months ago I visited the beautiful home of a 
newspaper publisher. He and his wife led me to the library 
to meet their only child, a cerebral palsy victim in his mid 
dle twenties. The boy inherited the facial characteristics of 
his handsome father, but he was a semi-invalid with a 
severe speech impediment. It was apparent that he would 
always need constant care. Meeting the boy for the first 
time shook me. But the strength of his remarkable parents 
made me ashamed of my feelings. In one brief sentence the 
boy's father helped me to understand the philosophy that 
made it possible for him and his wife to accept their lot. 
He said, "If God saw fit to make such children, I am 
happy he sent one to us because we know how to love 
him." 

Parents of retarded children belong to a special society. 
They all pay the same duesfirst shocked disbelief, then 
heartache, and finally the challenge of adjusting. God 
seems to give these parents a second pair of eyes for seeing 
what others cannot see. They develop a saintly patience, a 
nobility of spirit, and a tenderness of heart reserved for 
them alone. 



190 BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU 

Pearl Buck, the mother of a retarded child, wrote: 

"I cannot say I am glad my child is retarded. That would 
be folly. But I can say with a full heart that my daughter's 
handicap has renewed my faith in human beings. Through 
her my life has become enriched and my heart kept warm. 
I meet parents of retarded children everywhere. In every 
crowd there is always at least one who comes forward to 
take my hand and whisper 1 have a retarded child, too/ 
We look into each other's eyes with instant understanding. 
We know/ 7 

Helen Hayes played the most challenging role of her 
career when her daughter Mary, a talented actress of twenty, 
was stricken with polio. Miss Hayes had to give strength to 
others at a time when she needed support and courage 
herself. She wrote of that experience: 

"I went to church every morning to pray, but I had be 
come careless with my religion and had cut God out of my 
life. I didn't have tie nerve to ask Him to make my 
daughter well. I prayed only for understanding. I asked 
Him to come into my life and let me reach Him. When 
Mary died, I felt that my prayers had not been answered. 
But I learned later this experience gave my life meaning 
which until then had escaped me. I became a living part of 
God's world of people/' 

Most touching to me is the heroism, the courage and 
faith of the average people of the world. Often readers who 
write about a problem will add something about their per 
sonal lives. I am moved by the magnificent people who 
write such lines as "My husband lost his sight shortly after 
we married, but we manage beautifully/' Or "I've had two 
operations for cancer, but I know I'll be able to attend my 
son's graduation in June and I'm so thankful for that/' 

No one knows why life must be so punishing to some of 
God's finest creatures. Perhaps it is true that everything 



BE BIGGER THAN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU igi 

has a price and we must sacrifice something precious to 
gain something else. The poets and philosophers say adver 
sity, sorrow and pain give our lives meaning an added 
dimension. Those who suffer deeply touch life at every 
point; they drain the cup to the dregs while others sip only 
the bubbles on top. Perhaps no man can touch the stars 
unless he has known the depths of despair. 



i 

SIXTEEN 



Age it's only a number, Baby! 



"Grow old along with me 
The best is yet to be 
The last of life for which the first was made." 

Robert Browning 



EADERS frequently confess in letters secret anxieties 
which they would never talk about. My mail shows 
that thousands of Americans, particularly women, are 
haunted by the fear of growing old. 

Many who write are panic-stricken at the thought of 
leaving their twenties behind. More are terrified at the 
prospect of the Big 40. When people kid about age, more 
often than not they are kidding from the heart. The old 
line, "What happens to the years a woman hacks off her 
age?" and the reply, "Oh, they aren't lost she just adds 

192 




AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 193 

them on to the age of a dear friend" is a savage illustra 
tion of woman's compulsion to remain young, and to make 
her contemporaries appear older. 

Jokes aside, however, for many the fortieth birthday is a 
traumatic experience. Thirty-nine is the year at which both 
men and women seem to get stuck. When I was thirty-nine, 
I gave my age as forty. I had known so many women who 
lied about being thirty-nine that I wanted no part of it. 

When I was nine years old, I thought twenty-five was 
middle-aged. Anyone over forty was fossilized and couldn't 
possibly be getting any fun out of life. A person fifty was a 
museum piece and should be treated with reverence simply 
because God had allowed him to live so long. Today my 
conception of middle-age is approximately ten years older 
than I am right now (forty-three). 

James Thurber's comment on age in terms of the Amer 
ican culture is amusing, but it's also the way a great many 
see it. Thurber said: "In America, love after forty is obscene, 
work after fifty is unlikely, and death before sixty is prac 
tically a certainty/' 

Age is important only to the very young and to the very 
insecure. Mature people do not think of themselves (or 
others) in terms of how many years they have lived. It's 
interesting to go around a room and ask each guest in turn 
"What age would you like to be if you had a choice?" I 
have yet to hear anyone say he would like to be older. Al 
most every woman (and some men) wish to be younger. 
The mature man and woman wish to be exactly the age 
they are. 

To the insecure female the passing years mean only fad 
ing beauty and competition from younger women. They 
write such lines as: 

"I'm forty-six and afraid. When I glanced in the mirror 
this morning, I realized for the first time that I am no 



194 AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 

longer young. I wonder how I appear to my husband who 
works in an office with chic, attractive career girls. Now 
that I think of it, he's been having dinner downtown more 
often than he used to. Do you think perhaps?" 

Worshiping at the shrine of youth is an American 
aberration which has evolved in the last thirty years. The 
average American homemaker looks at least ten years 
younger than her grandmother did at a comparable age be 
cause her life is easier. Grandma had to cook on a wood 
stove and bake her own bread. She washed clothes on a 
board over a tub. But Grandma didn't mind because the 
TV commercials had not yet told her that if she wanted to 
be loved by a man she'd better keep her hands soft as satin 
and wear a 'living" bra. Grandma didn't dread the years 
she welcomed them. As her children grew older, her re 
sponsibilities decreased. There was more time for relaxa 
tion. It was indeed "the last of life for which the first was 
made." 

What is the emancipated American woman doing with 
the hours of leisure provided by push-button living? Too 
many of these hours are spent on her hair, her fingernails, 
her toe nails, her face and her body. She is wearing herself 
out fighting the battle of the birthdays. 

Millions of woman-hours and man-dollars are squan 
dered on rejuvenating processes that don't work. Industries 
have been built on chin straps, "tissue-rebuilding cremes," 
and hair tints. The following lines appeared in an advertise 
ment of a leading cosmetic firm: 

"Do you realize that a potion exists that may well begin 
the age of agelessness for women? This formula is filled 
with counterparts of vital substances found in young skin. 
What's more, it carries them into the living cells. This 
cream is dedicated to the exciting woman who spends a 
lifetime living up to her potential. $15 plus tax/' 



AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 195 

No creature is so pathetic as the woman who is trying to 
kid the calendar. The girdled hips, the dyed hair, the mask 
of make-up and the veined feet perched on backless high 
heels fool no one. The wise woman knows that by the time 
she has reached fifty she is either wanted and loved for what 
she is, or she is not wanted and loved, period. Starvation 
diets, paint jobs, and dressing in the style of her daughter 
will not help her. 

The American ideal of the beautiful woman is a national 
disgrace. It shrieks of immaturity. Our European sisters 
have a far more sophisticated approach to age. The Euro 
pean male believes that a woman is not interesting until she 
is over thirty-five. She doesn't know enough. 

When it was suggested to Ethel Barrymore as she ap 
proached fifty-five that perhaps a little facial surgery would 
insure a wider selection of romantic roles, she replied, 'Tart 
with my wrinkles never! They are my credentials for living. 
Fve earned them all." 

Discarded wives sometimes write "He left me for a 
younger woman/' In many cases this should be translated 
into "He left her for a more interesting woman." Here is 
an example of such a letter. Her signature was "Defeated 
by Youth/' but her name is Legion. 

"I was married at twenty. Wally was twenty-three. We 
were so much in love. We celebrated our twenty-third 
wedding anniversary in May. Our two children are now in 
college. Wally has done extremely well financially. To the 
casual observer we are an ideal couple. 

"I thought our marriage was as solid as the Rock of 
Gibraltar, but last night I got the shock of my life. He 
told me he's been in love with another woman for two 
years and wants his freedom so they can be married. 

'The other woman is fifteen years younger than I am. 
Fve met her and she is very pretty. There's no use kidding 



196 AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 

myself, Ann, I lost out to a woman who could give him 
the one thing I could not youth. 

"Several of my friends have had similar experiences. 
Some refuse to consider divorce. They pretend not to see 
what is happening and hope the affair will blow over. I 
have too much pride for this. But what's the answer? How 
can a wife past forty hang on to her man when the compe 
tition is holding all the trump cards? Please tell me. 

Defeated by Youth" 

What "Defeated" refuses to admit is this: a man who 
finds f ulfillment and contentment at home cannot be lured 
away by any woman younger or older. I don't buy the 
theory that middle-aged men just naturally go for younger 
women. All men are attracted to women who are inter 
esting and stimulating. A man is drawn to a woman who 
makes him feel virile and important. The wife may seem 
dreary and dull in contrast to the career woman. Or the 
wife may be so domineering and overpowering that her hus 
band needs the reassurance of a less aggressive woman to 
restore his feeling of masculinity. The wife who is interest 
ing and interested and who makes her husband feel more 
like a man than a cash register seldom has to worry about 
competition. 

Women readers often ask if I know any secrets that 
will help them stay young. I do not. I have a few pet, 
unscientific tips, however, and here they are: 

1. Don't let yourself get fat 

2. Keep your teeth in good repair. 

3. If you must drink (and I am against it) keep the 
consumption down. 

4. Don't select clothes that your granddaughter might 
wear. The fifty-two-year-old grandmother wearing a jumper 
and a Buster Brown hat doesn't look younger. She looks 
ridiculous and pitiable. 



AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 197 

5. Go easy on the make-up after forty-five. A heavy foun 
dation base and too much powder or rouge accentuate the 
wrinkles, 

6. Know and care about what is happening in the 
world around you. A woman whose conversation is current 
and interesting is ageless. 

If women would accept the fact that to be young is no 
achievement they would be more content. The real achieve 
ment is to make the best of every age as you live it. The 
woman who is forty-eight is exactly what she has made of 
herself. If she is a desirable woman, she is more attractive 
than she was at twenty-eightand as young in spirit. 

The men in our culture who can't accommodate to their 
years are equally pathetic. They are not always recognizable 
on sight in broad daylight although some of the unfortu 
nates can be found several hours a week in barber shops, 
trying everything from garlic cloves to sheep dip .to save 
the fast-falling hair. The herd of aging buck are most active 
toward evening. They are the night prowlers the latter- 
day Tom Cats who equate youth with virility. 

Just being seen with a young girl massages their egos. 
One New York model wrote: 

"I can't figure Mr. M. out. He takes me to the finest 
places and spends money galore. This has been going on 
for five months. Although he is very affectionate when 
people are around, he has never made a serious pass. In 
cidentally, Mr. M. is about fifty-five and I am twenty-two. 
He has good connections in the dress business and I am a 
girl who wants to get ahead/' 

I told the girl I was happy she wanted to get ahead be 
cause she could certainly use one. I went on to explain that 
Mr. M. is interested only in a flattering ornament. 

In almost every social group there is at least one male 
whose central conversational theme is sex. If the topic un- 



198 AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 

der discussion is politics, he has all the inside dope on the 
sex life of the candidates. If the conversation is foreign aid, 
he gets off on the sex habits of the natives. No matter 
what the subject, he is an absolute genius at using it as a 
bridge to get back to subject A. The person whose mind 
operates primarily along horizontal lines is sick and more 
often than not, he is impotent. Conversation is his substi 
tute for performance. 

Youth should not be equated with virility. I receive 
many complaints from women married to men in their 
twenties who say their husbands have no interest in sex. 
And an even greater number of letters come from women 
in their sixties who complain of exhaustion because of their 
husbands' sexual demands. 

The two letters which follow illustrate contrasting view 
points. The first is from Greensboro, North Carolina: 

"I'm a woman who is twenty-eight years old and the 
mother of two children. My husband is twenty-eight, also, 
and we have been married for six years. He treats me very 
nicely, we have no financial problems. He doesn't drink 
or gamble or pay attention to other women. In fact my 
problem is he doesn't even pay any attention to me. The 
kst time he made love to me was on my birthday in Feb 
ruary. (It was his birthday present.) I'm writing this 
letter, as you can see, on May 10. Please don't suggest that 
I tell him to go to the doctor. He has a physical check-up 
every year and is in excellent health. He is normal in every 
way and we get along together fine. I've mentiond this to 
him a few times and he says some people are interested in 
sex, and others are not and he happens to be one who is 
not What shall I do? I am." 

From St. Petersburg, Florida: 

"I am a woman in my early sixties. My husband is sixty- 
five. We have four children and fourteen lovely grandchil- 



AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 199 

dren. When we go out for an evening with friends, my 
husband gives me affectionate pats and caresses, which I 
don't mind too much, but when we get home he wants to 
keep it up. I've told him that people our age should be 
over that kind of foolishness. He says I am wrong. In fact 
he bragged that his grandfather married a thirty-three-year- 
old woman when he was seventy (second marriage) and 
they had two children. I can see that the nonsense is still 
running in his family. Please answer me in a plain en 
velope and tell me if this is respectable. I hope you say 
no." (She signed her letter, "Wish He'd Retire.") 

I told the Greensboro woman that a twenty-eight-year-old 
man who bestows his "favors" once a year and calls it a 
birthday present has a clinker in his thinker and that he 
needs more than a physical check-up. He needs a mental 
check-up. 

The St. Petersburg wife who "Wished He'd Retire" was 
told that sex activity between married people is respectable 
at any age. I added that she should be flattered. A good 
many men in their sixties enjoy pinching women other than 
their wives. 

Youth is a state of mind. It is enthusiasm for life (or 
our lack of it) that pins the label of age on us. A keen 
mind can do more to make a woman's eyes sparkle than the 
most skillfully applied make-up. And I have yet to meet a 
man or woman who did not look years younger when smil 
ing. A head held high, shoulders back, a brisk gait can 
knock off ten years and it costs nothing. 

I once heard a doctor say, "You know, some people die 
in the very best of health." When I asked for an explana 
tion, he said: 

"It is easy to die when you have nothing to live for. In 
my practice I see patients who have a long list of organic 
defects, but they go on living actively and usefully in spite 



200 AGE IT'S ONLY A NUMBER, BABY! 

of their physical problems. I see other patients who die 
from relatively minor illnesses. I believe it is mainly be 
cause the fight has gone out of their lives. They die be 
cause they have no desire to go on living/* 

We all have known people who, in the evening of their 
lives, seemed hale and hearty, almost indestructible. Then, 
suddenly, the loss of a husband or a wife changed every 
thing. The phrase, "He died of a broken heart" when trans 
lated into medical terms means, "His life no longer had 
meaning. It was easier to die than to live." Every doctor 
has had at least a few cases where the reverse was true. I 
have heard doctors say, "I would not have given him a 
chance for survival, but he simply refused to die." 

The real trick is to stay alive as long as you live. To 
enjoy the blessings and the beauties that surround you and 
to make others glad that you are around. The key is to be 
active and useful and interested. This is the secret of stay 
ing alive as long as you live. 

Some of the youngest people I know will never see 
seventy again. They are young because they have a lively en 
thusiasm for what is coming next. They are too fascinated 
with plans for the future to dwell in the past. They find 
life an exciting game because they are participants, not 
spectators. They are interesting people because they are 
interested people. 

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt, as 
young as your courage, as old as your fear, as young as your 
dreams, as old as your despair. Walter Huston put it so 
well "Age it's only a number, Baby." 



A 

SEVENTEEN 



An you for real? 



the outward and inward man be one." 

Socrates 



GREW up in an atmosphere electric with Yiddish adages. 
j[ My father was a sort of Jewish Lin Yutang. My mother 
had a talent for fitting an appropriate expression to any set 
of circumstances. 

One of her favorites (and perhaps the one which first 
stimulated me to thinlc beyond the literal meaning of 
words) was '^Zie a mench." In English it means "Be a per 
son/' Since everyone is a person I reasoned that "Zie a 
mench" had to mean something more. So I aslced. "A 
mench/' explained my mother, "is a real person." 

A real person is one who manages to be himself. This 
sounds elementary, and perhaps even naive, but don't be 
fooled. Being yourself is a challenging taslc because to be 
yourself you must know yourself. And few people do. 



201 



202 ARE YOU FOR REAL? 

What are you really like? Would you be offended if I 
were to suggest that you are two people? Well, everyone is. 
First you are the self with the unattractive qualities the 
secret desires, the large and small fears, the nagging inse 
curities, the twinges of envy and cowardice and avarice. 
Second is the self you proudly present to the world coura 
geous, confident, mature, selfless. This is the self each of us 
wants the world to see. 

It is impossible to be 100 per cent for real. The society 
we live in requires that we behave in a prescribed manner, 
even though it may be contrary to our desires. But the 
better adjusted we are, the more real we are. 

We have all encountered the phony with the false 
front. He talks big and does little. He is the eternal windbag, 
preaching one thing and practicing another unreliable and 
unpredictable because no code of ethics governs his be 
havior. He folds in the clutch but is never without an air 
tight, water-proof alibi. Not only is his spine made of 
macaroni, but when his ego is punctured and the mask 
falls, another less attractive face is exposed. 

The real person has a consistency which runs through 
eveiy phase of his interpersonal relationships. He doesn't 
shower you with attention one day and ignore you the 
next. He doesn't wear one face for the company executives 
and another face for the company janitor. He doesn't smile 
sweetly to his dinner partner and then, within seconds, 
bark orders to the waiter. He has a quality of consistency 
which bespeaks reliability, dependability and loyalty. He 
operates at a high ethical level and within a predictable 
framework. His responses to faying situations are disci 
plined and civilized. He doesn't switch positions, abandon 
his principles, or change his personality to fit his mood, the 
company, the weather, or the state of his digestion. 
If s interesting to listen to a friend when he turns from 



ARE YOU FOR REAL? 203 

you to take a telephone call. Does his voice change? Or is 
it the same voice he used when he was talking to you? The 
real person is relaxed and he relaxes others. The phony is 
strained because he's working so hard at playing a role. If s 
exhausting to be on stage constantly, pretending and play 
acting, never quite sure how the performance is coming off. 

The real person uses a simple conversational alphabet. 
There is no capital "I," no small "u." He is not driven to 
exaggerate his virtues or his achievements. He doesn't pre 
tend to be wealthier, wiser, better (or worse) behaved 
than he really is. He doesn't tiy to overwhelm others by 
name-dropping or place-dropping. The man who brags 
about his family tree betrays the fact that he is the sap. And 
we all know people who select their church, politics, and 
clubs solely on the basis of what the affiliation might do for 
them socially or financially. 

Every organization has its bootlickers or at least one 
man with a gray flannel mouth. He goes through life with 
a moistened finger to the wind, never taking a stand until 
he is certain if $ "safe." Conformity seems to assure secu 
rity and respectability. Often, much of the real self is sacri 
ficed in the process of fitting into the mold of what we 
think is expected of us. 

It is becoming increasingly difficult in our society to be 
a real person because phoniness is built into our daily lives. 
Advertisements tell us that everything must look good, 
taste good, and smell good. If it doesn't, "scientists" are put 
to work to "improve" the product. We have become so 
enthralled with the ideal of youth and beauty that there 
are no limits some women won't test in giving nature a 
hand. They can display pearly white dentures, contact 
lenses, false eye-lashes, penciled brows, a surgically lifted 
face, plastic fingernails, tinted hair, a padded bra and der- 
riere, too, if you please. Males have recourse to surgical 



204 ARE YOU FOR REAL? 

face-lifting, too, and many go in for tinted hair, monkey- 
glands, and elevator shoes. There are advertisements for 
false hair which can be glued to the chest of a man who 
wishes to look virile in bathing trunks. (It is guaranteed 
not to come off in the water.) 

A society which accepts so much external fakery is vul 
nerable to spiritual fraud as well. One of the prime ingredi 
ents of a real person is integrity. Diogenes would have to 
look even harder and longer today to find an honest man 
because the commercial rat race often offers the prize to the 
one who is willing to grab the quick but dishonest advan 
tage. It takes strength to stick to principles in a world where 
the curve ball artists seem to be doing so well. Prosperity 
has grown a fatty tissue around our conscience. We are 
suffering from spiritual leukemia in a push-button, fur- 
lined age. 

Personal integrity cannot be imposed by law. Laws have 
loopholes through which many a slippeiy character can 
crawl. We can act within the law and still be morally wrong. 
The true measure of the man is the level at which he oper 
ates when there are moral choices to be made. 

What makes some people straight and others kinky? It is 
mostly a matter of early training, the ma/or part of which is 
example. Those parents whose answers are evasive teach 
their youngsters the art of dancing around the truth. The 
small child who is lied to will lie to others. The mother who 
helps her teen-ager fie to Dad because "if he knew the truth 
he'd be furious" does the teen-ager no favor. Parents who 
choose the high road even though the low road seems the 
more advantageous, give their children an indispensable tool 
for building a good life. 

A child who is brought up to respect truth has an 
enormous advantage. Integrity and a feeling of personal 
worth are assets more precious than an exceptional mind, 



ARE YOU FOR REAL? 2O$ 

good loots, or a winning personality. The so-called old- 
fashioned virtues are interdependent and where you find one 
you usually find others. People who participate in phony 
deals and shoddy business practices can usually be counted 
on to betray a friend. And the hacfoieyed adage that "blood 
is thicker than water ' may be accurate chemically but that's 
as far as it goes. Every batch of my mail contains letters from 
readers who are suffering at the hands of relatives. Business 
deals in which brother cheats brother, inheritance wrangles 
where one or two members of a family bilk a widow or 
the surviving children are eveiy day occurrences. None of 
us can safely assume that a relative can be trusted merely 
because he is a relative. The real person who has decent 
principles and high moral standards will treat all people 
fairly. The unprincipled character will take anybody he 
can relatives included. 

The opening paragraphs of this chapter suggest that no 
one is 100 per cent for real. Why? Because society won't 
permit it. The twentieth century two-legged animal is ex 
pected to be tactful. Civilized behavior demands that we 
sublimate minor hostilities and frustrations in order to get 
along with others. In dozens of small ways man accommo 
dates. He must compromise with absolute truth if he is 
mature enough to place a higher value on the feelings of 
others than on his own comfort or convenience. Eveiy man 
must set his personal limits, however. He must decide the 
point at which he will refuse to allow inconsiderate people 
to take advantage of him. Too often, a cruel or unthinking 
person will club his victim over the head with "the truth" 
and call it "friendship/" 

It is the central business of every human being to work 
toward being as real as it is within his power to be. Psychia 
trists tell us that the healthy personality is whole it is all 
of a piece. This means the individual has resolved the 



2O6 ARE YOU FOR REAL? 

ma/or conflicts within himself and he is not compelled to 
act one way and feel another. 

William James described this struggle as "zerrissenheit" 
which means "torn to pieces-ness/' There are times in our 
lives when feelings of defeat or fear make us feel that our 
world is falling apart and the temptation is to fall apart 
with it. The real person refuses to give way to "zerrissen 
heit/ 7 He keeps himself together. He accepts himself with 
his limitations and his imperfections without shame or 
sham. He can tolerate frustration or defeat. He can regroup 
and rebuild. He is kept afloat fay the knowledge that he has 
what it takes to recover and try again. An unmistakable hall 
mark of realness is the ability to meet all situations with 
dignity and maturity* 

If you can truthfully say that you are on good terms with 
yourself, if the image you project to others bears a family 
resemblance to the kind of person you believe you are, if 
you say what you mean and mean what you say, and if you 
are willing to admit that there is just a little bit of the 
phony in you you are for real. 



(Continued from front flap) 

Here is practical down-to-facts counsel 
for anyone trying to cope with everyday 
problems. 

For example: in the chapter, How To 
Pick A Winner, Ann Landers gives you 
the common-sense approach to marriage. 
How To Stay Married, includes a valu 
able set of rules that will help you to a 
successful marriage. Age, lt?s Only A 
Number, Baby, talks about the prob 
lems of getting older and how to cope 
with them. Double Trouble, offers help 
ful advice on bringing up twins. Teen 
agers And Sex, answers some urgent 
questions for the modern-day parent. 

: . uie answer to thousands of read 
ers who asked Ann Landers to writ? 
this book. 

About the Author 

ANN LANDERS in private life is Esther 
Pauline (Mrs. Jules) Lederer, wife of a 
Chicago business executive and mother 
of a daughter, Margo. Six years ago 
she took over the responsibilities of the 
Ann Landers column for the Chicago 
Sun-Times and today is the nation's top 
human relations columnist. Her column 
is distributed by The Sun-Times-Daily 
News Syndicate and now appears in 450 
newspapers with a daily circulation of 
20 million. 






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